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Senior midwife begs pregnant women not to use 'extremely dangerous' baby heart monitor apps

PUBLISHED: 12:09 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:15 27 March 2019

Midwives have raised fears that apps are making mums to be more anxious. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Midwives have raised fears that apps are making mums to be more anxious. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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A senior midwife is begging women not to use a popular app claiming it is "extremely dangerous" and could offer false reassurance about the health of their baby.

The senior midwife at JPUH has begged mums to be not to use heart monitor apps, tagging  them The senior midwife at JPUH has begged mums to be not to use heart monitor apps, tagging them "extremely dangerous" Picture: Hear My Baby

Hear My Baby (HMB) Heartbeat Monitor claims to be a “trustworthy, safe, and easy-to-use” way of listening to and recording your unborn baby’s heartbeat and sounds.

It says getting results can sometimes be difficult and that app performance is best from 30 weeks when the baby is stronger.

But the head of midwifery at Gorleston’s James Paget University Hospital Jayne Utting has posted concerns about the device tagging Hear My Baby as “extremely dangerous” because being able to hear a heartbeat could offer false reassurance when there was much more going on.

Writing on the JPUH Facebook page Bumps, Babies, and Mums, to its 3,600 followers she wrote:

“As midwives and obstetric doctors, we work incredibly hard to keep you and your baby safe.

“Part of keeping you both well is a reliance on technology but not all technology is good.

“Devices and apps, such as the one below (HMB) are extremely dangerous and are not endorsed or recommended by midwives or obstetric doctors.

“One of our Paget midwives recently said ‘these apps are not good because parents may use it as a means of reassurance if they haven’t felt baby move or the movements have changed.

“Hearing the heart beat may provide that reassurance but it takes midwives three years to learn how to interpret a heart beat.

“We don’t just listen to see if it’s there, we listen to rate, variability around the rate, accelerations and decelerations and an anomaly with any one of them may require further checks.”

She added: “So please, we beg you not to use these apps or home Doppler devices to reassure you about the wellbeing of your baby.

“If your baby’s movements reduce or change please contact us for an expert opinion and assessment.”

In response, Ross Jones, co-founder of Hear My Baby, said the app was not intended to be a replacement for expert advice.

He said: “Hear My Baby is designed to be a fun bonding experience, allowing our customers to share the heartbeat and other sounds.

“It is not designed for (nor do we promote it for) reassurance.

“We regularly point out in facebook comment responses, via our social media channels, and on our app store responses that we do not recommend downloading our app if you are anxious about your pregnancy.

“In fact, on many occasions, we have recommended not to download our app in this context.”

Mr Jones added: “We take safety and the wellbeing of mothers and their babies extremely seriously.

“We simply feel that people should have the choice to use technology and as long as the principles on which it should be used are clearly explained upfront, then this should be up to the individual to decide whether the technology is right for them, not pressure groups.”

‘Some are fantastic’

Anne-Marie Gray from Hopton downloaded a flurry of apps when she became pregnant with Phoebe, now 14 months old.

The 35-year-old found being able to track her baby’s development fascinating and also received tips about what to eat in a simple click - but took most heed of professionals at her local clinic.

Although she wasn’t aware of heartbeat monitor apps she avoided any Dopplar devices for fear they would fuel anxiety.

“I would definitely use them again, but not the heartbeat one,” she said.

Apps like the Bounty one gave useful information and also special offers and giveaways.

It was only after Phoebe was born that the apps became a source of anxiety with updates about what milestones she should be achieving leading to comparisons with other babies.

Mixed reviews

The HMB app achieves a 3.8 out of five score, based on 390 ratings given by reviewers.

One user said: “Tried it loads of times up until now at 38 weeks but haven’t been able to hear baby’s heartbeat once.

“I could hear my own heartbeat when I tested but it still comes through extremely faint so fat chance of hearing my tiny baby’s heartbeat which is surrounded by fluid.

“Waste of time and money and probably does more harm than give reassurance.”

Another said it was “amazing” adding “It took some time and a couple of attempts however I managed to get the baby’s heartbeat and a lovely recording of it for family and friends. Absolutely made up.”

Developers responding to claims people haven’t been able to get results say: “It does take some patience and depends on the size and position of the baby as well.”

A support team is on hand via email to help people navigate the system.

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