This article is reviewed by a team of registered dietitians and medical doctors with extensive, practical clinical and public health experience.
How To Increase Fetal Heart Rate In Early Pregnancy: Useful Tips In 2023
Early pregnancy is a crucial period as the rate of miscarriage is high during the first trimester. Early detection of pregnancy can be helpful to ensure proper prenatal care and any medical assistance for ensuring a healthy pregnancy.
Lower fetal heart rate (FHR) during early pregnancy is often a serious concern. Several studies have linked lower FHR with early miscarriage. A healthy heart rate of the fetus is reassuring that the pregnancy is going well.
So, how to increase fetal heart rate in early pregnancy? Is there something you can do to ensure a better FHR? We will discuss these questions and more on fetal bradyarrhythmia in this article.
How To Increase Fetal Heart Rate In Early Pregnancy?
There is no standard treatment plan that can increase FHR in early pregnancy. Along with close monitoring, a combination of a healthy diet and lifestyle is often suggested by the OB-GYN. Medications might or might not be prescribed depending on the exact condition of the fetus and the mother.
The normal heart rate of the fetus should be between 110 and 160 beats per minute. The FHR increases with the advancement of the pregnancy. The lower limit of normal FHR is 100 bpm up to 6.2 weeks of gestation and 120 bpm at 6.3 to 7.0 weeks.
Fetal heart rate below this range carries the maximum risk of miscarriage. A sustained FHR lower than 110 bpm is termed fetal bradyarrhythmia. The condition can be mild to serious depending on several factors. A mild case may resolve on its own over the next weeks of pregnancy without any further consequences.
Fetal bradyarrhythmia can be associated with other conditions like a congenital heart defect, chromosomal anomalies, or some health conditions of the mother.
Risk Of Miscarriage With A Slow Fetal Heartbeat
Fetal Heart Rate below 110 bpm at 7.1 – 8.0 weeks has been linked to miscarriage. Generally, the earlier the heartbeat appears in the fetus and the slower it is, the worse the outcome. Several studies have concluded that a lower fetal heart rate during early pregnancy has the maximum risk of miscarriage.
In a healthy pregnancy, during the first trimester, fetal heart rate increases from an average of 100 bpm at 5-6 weeks to 140 bpm at 8-9 weeks. Fetal heart rate lower than this has been associated with poor outcomes.
If your OB-GYN has informed you about a lower FHR during early pregnancy, it doesn’t necessarily mean a negative outcome, unless the FHR is extremely low. Also, the percentage of such cases is less. So, unless your doctor tells you otherwise, following the suggestions of your OB-GYN is the best you can do to increase fetal heart rate.
If the fetal heart rate is slightly lower than normal, it may be resolved naturally during the later stages of pregnancy without any further consequences. Close monitoring along with a proper diet and lifestyle is what you need to follow. However, nothing can stop a miscarriage if it is inevitable because it is usually nature’s way of taking care of genetic defects or conditions incompatible with life. So, while lifestyle choices are important, it is not the woman’s fault if the pregnancy ends in miscarriage.
Maternal Diet And Lifestyle To Support Fetal Heart Health
It is best to follow the suggestions of the doctor as far as the diet and lifestyle of the expecting mother are concerned. Several scientific studies have concluded a number of diet and lifestyle choices during pregnancy can impact the overall health of the fetus including the fetal heart rate. Let’s dig deeper to find out what diet and lifestyle choices are healthy for your baby’s heart.
Studies have established that maternal diet during early pregnancy can impact the heart health of the fetus, which may have long-term consequences on the child. Research studying the correlation between maternal dietary patterns and the risk of Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs) in the fetus found that pregnant women who practice a prudent diet pattern and dairy and egg pattern before conception have a lower risk of giving birth to a baby with CHDs.
A heart-healthy diet for the expecting mother during pregnancy should include whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and fish. Keeping the intake of processed foods, highly concentrated sweets, and red meats to a minimum is best suggested. Excess salt intake during pregnancy is also not recommended as it might affect the heart health of the fetus.
Stress And Anxiety
Maternal stress and anxiety during pregnancy can impact the heart rate of the fetus. More than one study has established the link between the two with babies having higher heart rates in anxious women. The relation between maternal depression, stress, and anxiety has long been associated with fetal risks, including low fetal birth weight and premature delivery. A relationship between maternal emotions during pregnancy and altered fetal behavior has also been reported. Overall, too low or too high of a fetal heart rate is not good (less than 120 or greater than 160 in the second and third trimesters.
During pregnancy avoiding physical or mental stress is a common suggestion by doctors as it might affect the fetus and FHR negatively. Managing stress and anxiety during pregnancy can be critical but proper rest, diet and meditation can help. Keeping stress and anxiety low during early pregnancy, might help to decrease FHR if it is too high. Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant and feeling depressed or anxious.
Exercising during pregnancy increases fetal heart rate. Women leading a highly active lifestyle before conception often have a good fetal heart rate in early pregnancy. For non-exercisers, regularly active as well as highly active women, fetal heart rate has been found to increase after moderate-intensity exercise sessions during pregnancy.
But obstetricians are often hesitant to suggest exercises to pregnant women who have been in a sedentary lifestyle before pregnancy. Limiting maternal heart rate to less than 140 bpm is often suggested but the guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have removed any such restrictions since 1994.
Alcohol freely passes through the umbilical cord. If alcohol consumption during early pregnancy or at a later stage can be detrimental to the normal growth of the fetus. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to heart problems in the fetus and miscarriage.
Conventionally, drinking a limited amount of alcohol is considered safe during pregnancy but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the health protection agency of the United States, there is no safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy and all types of alcohols, including wine and beer, can be equally harmful to the pregnancy and the fetus. So if you are pregnant or trying to conceive staying away from alcohol consumption can be helpful to ensure better fetal heart rate and overall health.
Tobacco smoke contains carbon monoxide and nicotine, which are known for neurotoxicity and are readily passed to the fetus through the placenta. Maternal cigarette smoking during pregnancy has been linked to premature births, higher neonatal mean heart rate, lower heart rate variability, and increased tremulousness in the fetus.
Apart from heart health, maternal smoking can also affect the neural health and normal growth of the baby. To increase fetal heart rate during early pregnancy, staying away from tobacco smoke is recommended.
Some studies (in mice) indicate that caffeine consumption during early pregnancy can seriously affect fetal heart development. It can even reduce heart function over the total lifespan of the child. The results are quite concerning as even a low dose of caffeine consumption has been found to be damaging for the baby. However, limiting caffeine to two cups of coffee or less (200mg) daily is recommended
Though more studies are needed to arrive at a clear conclusion, it is best to stay away from caffeine if your doctor has informed you about low FHR in early pregnancy.
Low fetal heart rate during early pregnancy has been linked to miscarriage by several studies. There are no standard treatments for increasing FHR during early pregnancy. A prudent diet, staying free from stress and anxiety, regular prenatal exercising, staying clear of alcohol consumption, smoking and caffeine intake, might be helpful to increase fetal heart rate in early pregnancy and ensure overall better heart health of the baby.
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