Parenting, Pregnancy

A new app allows mum to hear their unborn baby’s heartbeat

Melissa Imbesi by Melissa Imbesi
November 8th, 2016

Every time I hopped up on my obstetrician’s bed for a check-up during my pregnancies, I held my breath. As he reached for his fetal doppler, the instrument used to detect and monitor a baby’s heartbeat while in utero, I would close my eyes and pray, “God, please let my baby be ok.” Some times it would take longer than others to find the spot that allowed us to hear that deep, swishing, “b-doom, b-doom” sound of my child’s heartbeat, indicating that they were indeed healthy inside the confines of my belly. To this day, I remain beyond grateful for that sound, because the alternative would be unimaginable. As I got closer and closer to the end of my pregnancies, I would constantly put both hands on my belly and gently shake it or drink a glass of ice water – anything to get a little kick or flutter to assure me that my baby was still ok.

The Shell by Bella Beat is a new app that “non-invasively captures sounds from the womb and isolates the heartbeat” via a “first of its kind advanced algorithm.” Basically, it allows an expectant mother, father and their family and friends, to find, listen and record their baby’s heartbeat. The app is free and works in conjunction with an add-on accessory for your iPhone (although this is not essential for use), but with no nasty waves sent into mum’s tummy. Here’s how it works:

Now, if I were a pregnant woman right now, I reckon I would have purchased this faster than I could click ‘add to cart’…but is it a wise idea? For an anxious person like me I’d say no. Actually, I’d say it could be the worst thing possible for someone like me because I know that I would be walking around with my phone strapped to my belly 24/7. But it’s obviously insanely popular, because when I checked the website, the add-on attachment ($69) was sold out.

What do the professionals think? Midwife Jane Barry told Kidspot, “Nothing and no one can replace a health care professional working with the mother and supporting her through her pregnancy. The Shell should never be relied upon as one would a maternity care provider and their expertise.” I can’t help but think this would be inevitably be the case though. Imagine a mother wanting to have a listen to her baby one day and….nothing. We all know that babies wiggle around A LOT in their cramped confines and often, it’s even tricky even for midwives and obstetricians to find the right spot to pick up a heartbeat. I can only imagine what a panic this could send a woman into, desperately searching for a heartbeat on her own.

The idea behind The Shell is beautiful; I would love to have been able to hear my baby’s heart from the comfort of my own home and better still, have a recording of it for my own memory and to play to them when they were older. But I still think it would have potential to make some women more than a bit nervous if they didn’t get the sound they were searching for, no doubt resulting in lots of anxious calls to ob offices and maternity wards for reassurance. It’s fascinating technology though...leaving me to wonder what they’ll think of next.

Do you think The Shell is a good idea? Would you use it?