Listening to Foetus or Baby Heartbeats at 6-7 Weeks of Pregnancy

Hearing the Foetal Heartbeat During Pregnancy

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sabiha Anjum (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Hearing the baby’s heartbeat during pregnancy can be an exciting experience for parents-to-be. It is one of those moments an expectant couple wait for eagerly. If you are pregnant, no doubt, you will be eager to hear your baby’s heartbeat too. One of the most magical moments during this period is hearing the foetal heartbeat for the first time. A healthy fetal heartbeat means that a baby is developing just as he should. It’s a milestone that provides comfort and reassurance. Read this article to know when you will get to hear your baby’s heartbeat.

When Does Baby Develop Heartbeat?

Between 5 to 6 weeks of pregnancy, a flickering of cells appears within the developing embryo’s torso. This flickering marks the presence of the heart tube. However, at this early stage, the heart isn’t the fully developed, four-chambered organ we are familiar with. Instead, it’s a tube-shaped structure that will undergo significant development. The heart tube will bend, twist, and gradually transform into the mature heart, complete with its chambers.

It’s important to note that during this early phase, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) refers to this activity as “cardiac activity” rather than a heartbeat. ACOG explains that what pregnant individuals may hear or see during an ultrasound is the translation of electronic impulses, signifying fetal cardiac activity, into the sound that we commonly recognise as a heartbeat. ACOG recommends waiting until the heart is fully formed before using the term “heartbeat.” The development of the baby’s heart is one of the initial milestones in pregnancy since it is essential for delivering oxygen and nutrients to other developing organs.

When Can You Hear Your Baby’s Heartbeat for the First Time?

Many mothers wonder, ‘How early can you hear a heartbeat?’ While pregnant, you will get to hear your baby’s heartbeat at 6 weeks during your first scan. Foetal heartbeat at 5,6,7,8, and 9 weeks can be detected by conducting a transvaginal scan (TVS). Your doctor can also suggest a Doppler scan to detect the baby’s heartbeat. But sometimes, you may not hear the foetal heart rate by week 6, and you might have to wait until 10 or 12 weeks before you hear a proper healthy heartbeat.

Reasons for Not Hearing Fetal Heartbeat in Ultrasound

Possible reasons for not hearing the baby’s heartbeat during an early pregnancy ultrasound include:

  • Incorrect Due Date: It might be too early in your pregnancy, or your calculated due date could be inaccurate, especially if your menstrual cycle is irregular.

  • Weight: If you are overweight, the extra padding between the ultrasound wand and the baby can make it a bit difficult to detect the heartbeat.

  • Retroverted Uterus: If you have a retroverted uterus, the baby might be positioned slightly farther away, making it more challenging to detect the heartbeat.

  • Miscarriage: If there’s no heartbeat when it’s expected, and ultrasound measurements match the age of the pregnancy, or if the heartbeat was detected previously but is now absent, it could be a sign of a miscarriage. However, the case is rare, it is still possible.

  • Ectopic Pregnancy: In cases of ectopic pregnancy, an ultrasound may not pick up heart motion in the uterus because the embryo is not located there but in the fallopian tube. While ectopic pregnancies are not viable, they can sometimes develop enough to show heart motion.

How Is Baby’s Heart Rate Calculated?

The method to calculate a baby’s heartbeat is simple. To calculate the foetal heart rate, you will need to count the number of heartbeats in 15 seconds and multiply that number by 4. This will give you the number of heartbeats in one minute or 60 seconds. You can also count the heartbeats for 10 or 20 seconds and multiply it by 6 or 3, respectively, to get the total count for 60 seconds.

What Is the Normal Rate of Foetal Heartbeat?

A normal foetal heart rate is between 120 and 160 beats per minute (BPM). But this may vary in accordance with the movement of the foetus. Your baby’s heartbeat may fluctuate throughout the day and even rise up to 180 or 190. This is normal for babies. However, in case you have any concerns about your baby’s heart rate, you can always reach out to your doctor for clarification.

What Does a Baby’s Heartbeat Sound Like?

Most women say that foetal heartbeat sounds like the thunder of galloping horses. The foetal heartbeat is very fast and can be a little difficult to locate if one is using their own monitor. If you are trying to monitor at home, you may also hear a swishing sound. However, this is the sound of the blood flowing through the uterine vessels.

What Is a Healthy Heartbeat?

If you hear your baby’s heartbeat properly and the heart rate is normal, it means that he has a healthy heartbeat, and it is a sign that he is developing properly. If you hear the foetal heartbeat at 7 weeks or 8 weeks, it also indicates that he is growing as per the schedule and that he is in good health. A healthy foetal heartbeat also lowers the chances of a miscarriage.

Different Ways to Hear a Baby’s Heartbeat During Pregnancy

A baby’s heartbeat can be heard with the help of various instruments and apps. Some of the common ones are listed below.

1. A Stethoscope

One of the simplest ways to listen to your baby’s heartbeat is by using a stethoscope. A good quality stethoscope will be able to help you hear the foetal heartbeat around 18 to 20 weeks. Around this time, your baby’s heartbeat will be strong enough for you to hear with a stethoscope.

All you need to do is place the stethoscope on your belly and move it gently until you hear a strong heartbeat. You will need to be patient while trying out this method. It may not prove to be accurate if your baby’s heartbeat isn’t strong enough.

Use A Stethoscope To Hear Foetal Heartbeat2. Apps

Technology has made it easier for expecting parents to listen to their baby’s heartbeat. There are now hundreds of apps available that you can download on your smartphone that will enable you to hear your baby’s heartbeat. Some apps also provide the option of recording the heartbeat. You can record your baby’s heartbeat and play it back for your family or friends. Apps are more reliable in the later stages of pregnancy when the baby’s heartbeat is stronger. However, this technique is best avoided as cell phone radiation can prove to be harmful to your baby’s health.

3. A Foetal Monitor

You can even purchase a foetal heart rate monitor to listen to your baby’s heartbeat at home. You can choose an inexpensive one so that you have the choice to listen to the heartbeat in between your doctor’s appointments. You will, however, not be able to pick up a heartbeat until your fifth month of pregnancy as these monitors are not as strong as the ones used by the doctors. You can consult your doctor before you purchase a foetal heart rate monitor to use at home. Once you buy one, ensure that you follow the instructions carefully for accurate results.

4. A Foetal Doppler

Your doctor may use a foetal doppler to detect the heartbeat during your regular checkups. This device has a small probe that the doctor will move around on your belly, and once the heartbeat is detected, he will amplify the heartbeat using sound waves. This process is entirely painless. The Doppler can detect the heartbeat of the baby in the womb as early as nine or ten weeks. However, it may even take as long as 12 weeks in some cases.

5. An Ultrasound

Your doctor may also schedule an early ultrasound scan which can help you hear your baby’s heart rate around the eighth week of pregnancy. This is usually done if you have a high-risk pregnancy to detect complications early and treat them accordingly.

Can I Monitor Baby’s Heart Rate at Home?

You can monitor your baby’s heart rate at home using a foetal Doppler, which is a handheld ultrasound monitor, by renting it. However, the FDA recommends against the use of this device as using this device frequently without proper medical supervision can threaten a baby’s development.

Does Foetal Heartbeat Fluctuate During Pregnancy?

Foetal heartbeat is not always consistent, and this change could vary from pregnancy to pregnancy. Here are some reasons behind it:

1. Foetal Activity

Fetal activity and stress also influence heart rate, as an active baby tends to have a higher heart rate, while a sleeping baby has a lower one.

2. Blood Sugar Levels

Blood sugar levels play a role in fetal heart rate, with higher levels corresponding to a faster heart rate, and lower levels resulting in a slower heart rate.

3. Maternal Diet

A mother’s diet can temporarily affect the baby’s heart rate, as certain foods and drinks like chocolate, sugar, and coffee can stimulate it, so it’s important to be mindful of consumption before ultrasounds.

Can Stress Affect Foetal Heart Rate?

Studies have indicated that stress and anxiety can lead to changes in a woman’s heart rate and blood pressure, which in turn can affect the heart rate of the foetus. There have also been studies which link stress with the low birth weight of the baby and premature birth in babies. Stress during pregnancy may also have a lasting effect on the functioning and cognitive development of a baby later in life.

Many pregnant women get stressed during pregnancy. They are constantly afraid of the progress and the outcome of the pregnancy, which accumulates as anxiety and stress. Often, these mothers are able to overcome this stress by monitoring their baby’s heart rate and health using foetal dopplers.

Can You Rent or Buy a Foetal Doppler?

Yes, you can buy or rent foetal dopplers for use at home. There are several models available with different features. Some of them even have the option of recording the baby’s heartbeat. However, ensure that the foetal doppler that you are buying or renting is approved by the FDA. You may also want to check with your doctor about the best device to purchase or rent.

FAQs

1. Can I Hear My Baby’s Heartbeat With Human Ear?

No, you cannot hear a foetal heartbeat with a human ear, especially in the early trimester. Apparently, many expecting mothers in their late trimesters claim to have heard their baby’s heartbeat through their belly when in a quiet space.

2. Can Foetal Monitoring Hurt the Baby?

Monitoring a foetal heart externally using a transducer does not hurt the baby. There is a risk of bruising or infection on the foetus’ scalp and body parts while monitoring internally through a transducer during a transvaginal ultrasound.

Hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time can be an exhilarating experience for you. A healthy heartbeat is an indication that a baby is developing well. Ensure that you keep your appointments with your doctor and monitor your baby’s heartbeat from time to time. This can help you catch any anomalies well ahead of time. You can also keep a foetal heart rate monitor with you and record it in between your appointments and reach out to your doctor if you notice anything unusual.

References/Resources:

1. Ultrasound scans; Miscarriage Association; https://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/information/worried-about-pregnancy-loss/ultrasound-scans/

2. Buscicchio. G, Piemontese. M, Gentilucci. L, Ferretti. F, Tranquilli. A. L; The effects of maternal caffeine and chocolate intake on fetal heart rate; J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med.; PubMed; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22502981/; May 2012

3. Ultrasound; Mayo Clinic; https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/ultrasound/about/pac-20395177

4. Pildner von Steinburg. S, Boulesteix. A. L, Lederer. C, et al.; What is the “normal” fetal heart rate?; PeerJ. PubMed Central; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3678114/; June 2013

5. Weerakkody. Y, Murphy. A, Jones. J, et al.; Fetal heart rate in the first and second trimester; Radiopaedia; https://radiopaedia.org/articles/fetal-heart-rate-in-the-first-and-second-trimester?lang=gb

6. Brigham. S. A, Conlon. C, Farquharson. R. G; A longitudinal study of pregnancy outcome following idiopathic recurrent miscarriage; Human Reproduction, Volume 14, Issue 11, Pages 2868–2871; Oxford Academic; https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/14/11/2868/860040; November 1999

7. Fetal Heart; Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies (Seventh Edition), 2017; ScienceDirect; https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/fetal-heart

8. Fetal Heart Monitoring; Stanford Medicine; https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=external-and-internal-heart-rate-monitoring-of-the-fetus-92-P07776

Also Read:

Fast Heartbeat During Pregnancy
Anomaly Scan while Pregnant
Complete Guide of Doppler Scan in Pregnancy

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