The Wall Street Journal's Ron Leiber discovers a mini-boom of expectant parents buying or renting fetal monitors to listen to their baby's heartbeat at home [I'm telling you people, you should be out partying and going to movies every night...]. A fascinating trend--that turns out to be even more illegal than grey market European car seats.
The doppler ultrasound hardware is classified as medical equipment by the FDA and requires a prescription. Most of the sites selling the stuff just slide right by that pesky little requirement by having you check a little box somewhere with terms you don't read or care about.
While many parents buy the hand-held devices for entertainment value, some doctors say they could potentially be life-saving. But other doctors say it's highly unlikely that a layperson could detect a problem. Many doctors have a more practical objection: They're worried people won't use the machines correctly and will panic when they can't find the heartbeat.No kidding. While ultrasound exposure has been shown to be safe at standard levels (i.e., a couple of times), there is no data about the possible health effects of bombarding your fetus with it all day and night for seven months. But hey, all in the name of entertainment, right?