Ultrasound Scan of Baby’s Heartbeat

During pregnancy, there are many milestones that every couple goes through. Right from the day of detecting pregnancy to the time your little one enters the world, every day is filled with excitement and joy! One such milestone which leaves everyone in awe is hearing your baby’s first heartbeat. It’s a surreal feeling that can’t be explained in words. If you are a mommy and daddy-to-be, understanding when to expect the first fetal heartbeat and how to monitor fetal heart rate is very important. So, to help you out here’s a lineup of things you must know about fetal heartbeat. Keep reading to know more!

When Does Your Baby's Heart Start To Develop?

Ideally, your baby’s heart starts to develop in the first few weeks of your pregnancy. It’s around the 5th week when the two heart tubes fuse to form a heart. This enables the blood to flow and eventually, the tiny little heart starts to beat. By the time you enter the 10th week of your pregnancy, the fetal heart gets fully developed with the four heart chambers.

When Can You Hear A Baby's First Heartbeat?

There’s a possibility of detecting your baby’s first heartbeat as early as 5 to 6 weeks after gestation. It may be detected through vaginal ultrasound, although the timing can vary a bit. But by 6 to 7 weeks, the fetal heartbeat can surely be better assessed with the Fetal Doppler - a small handheld device that's pressed against your belly. In case, you aren’t able to detect the baby’s heartbeat within the above given weeks, then there’s no need to be alarmed. How early the heartbeat can be heard depends on various factors like your baby's position in your uterus, the mother’s weight, and the accuracy of her due date. If you are fewer than 12 weeks along and the fetal heartbeat can’t be detected through a fetal doppler, then an ultrasound will be performed. It has the ability to detect a heartbeat at eight weeks gestation or even earlier.

How Does The Baby Heart Rate Change?

When the baby is an embryo, its early heartbeat is fast, beating at about 160-180 beats per minute, twice as fast as us adults. As the embryo develops, the heartbeat slows down slightly but remains about 110-160 throughout its fetal life. To be precise, the fetal heartbeats 110 times per minute by the 6th week. In the 9th or 10th week, this heartbeat ranges up to 170 beats. This rate slows down and at around the 20th week, it reaches 140 beats per minute. Coming to the final stage, during labour a fetal heart rate can range from 110 to 160 beats per minute. But, keep in mind depending on various factors during the delivery, there can be variations outside of this range.

How Does The Fetal Heartbeat Sound Like?

You might imagine a fetal heartbeat to sound similar to a human heartbeat, right? Well, you are in for a surprise! It’s said that the sound of a baby's tiny heartbeat feels like the thunder of galloping horses. It’s because, as discussed earlier, the baby's heartbeat is about twice as fast as adults.

How To Monitor Fetal Heart Rate?

Fetal heart rate monitoring refers to a measurement that scales the heart rate and rhythm of your baby’s heart. It is done to ensure that your baby’s growth and development is unhampered. There are two ways in which fetal heart rate monitoring is conducted which include the following,

  1. External Monitoring (Auscultation): This process of monitoring the fetal heart rate involves the use of a Doppler. The device is placed on the woman’s abdomen to hear the fetal heartbeat. The process is also called auscultation and used by doctors at specific times during labour.

  2. Internal Monitoring: In this process, the doctor runs a wire called an electrode through the cervix and then into your womb. The wire is attached to your baby’s head and then it’s connected to a monitor. It delivers an ongoing reading, which enables the doctor to check the heart rate at set times.

Why A Fetal Heartbeat Can Be Undetectable?

There might be instances where the doctor isn’t able to find the baby’s heartbeat at first. It could be due to factors like the scan being taken at an early stage in the pregnancy or the women’s abdomen being too large. But there’s no need to be alarmed. You will expect to hear the fetal heartbeat by the time the fetus is 7 millimetres or more in length.

The Bottom Line

Right from your pregnancy through the delivery, your healthcare provider will monitor your baby’s heartbeat at every step. This is important to ensure that your precious little one is healthy and growing. There are chances that you might hear the fetal heartbeat for the first time as early as 6 weeks. In case, if you have any concerns related to your baby’s heartbeat, talk to your doctor. Rest be assured that the first heartbeat of your little one will be imprinted in your heart forever!