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Personal Use of Handheld Fetal Doppler Monitors by Women in New Zealand

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posted on 01.03.2021, 00:33 by Honeyman, Lyndal
This qualitative descriptive study explores what factors are driving women in New Zealand to use handheld fetal Doppler monitors during their pregnancy. This is a little explored phenomenon in the literature, and consensus among health professional bodies is that pregnant women should be discouraged from using a handheld fetal Doppler. One concern health professionals hold is that a pregnant woman may be falsely reassured about the condition of her unborn baby and would delay presentation to her lead maternity carer, culminating in stillbirth or neonatal morbidity and mortality that potentially could have been avoided.

Six women from a major New Zealand city who were between 20- and 39-weeks’ gestation participated in semi-structured interviews. Thematic analysis, as described by Braun and Clarke, was used to generate five main themes and six subthemes. Control was a strong overarching
theme with subthemes of Fertility and Pregnancy Loss, Ultrasound and Doppler anxieties. Fetal feedback with the subtheme of Bonding was another strong theme. The third and fourth themes were Peer-to-peer education and support and Lay knowledge versus professional knowledge with a
subtheme of Lack of research. The final theme was the Woman-Midwife relationship with a subtheme of More support.

Women’s reasons for using a handheld fetal Doppler is for control of their response to the potential of miscarriage. This response is largely one of anxiety, particularly prior to the quickening of the fetus when there is little feedback to prove ongoing fetal life outside of symptoms such as morning sickness. Whilst women gain their information to underpin use of a handheld fetal Doppler via their peer groups in online forums and other internet-based repositories, they are
wanting to enact partnership and shared decision-making with their lead maternity carer (LMC) regarding their use of handheld fetal Doppler monitors in pregnancy.

As technologies advance and become more available to non-health professionals, further exploration of use of handheld fetal Doppler monitors by pregnant women is needed in order to better inform women and midwives around the potential benefits and risks.


Advisor 1

Maude, Robyn

Copyright Date


Date of Award



Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Health Research

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Graduate School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health