When Can You Hear Your Baby’s Heartbeat [UK] 2023?
Congratulations, you’re pregnant! Now that you have a positive pregnancy test, you can look forward to the joys of watching your child grow.
Pregnancy is an exciting time full of anticipation as you await each milestone. One of the earliest milestones to look forward to is hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time.
Hearing the first pitter-patter of your baby’s developing heart in early pregnancy is unforgettable. It’s a sound that can only be described as amazing and often serves as a source of comfort to those expecting.
So when can you hear your baby’s heartbeat? Let’s dive into the details.
When Can You Hear The Baby’s Heartbeat?
Your baby’s heart is one of the first organs that develop. The fetal heart supports a healthy pregnancy by circulating oxygen and essential nutrients throughout your baby’s growing body. But when does the heart start beating in pregnancy?
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, fetal cardiac function begins as soon as six weeks gestation. So how soon can you hear a baby’s heartbeat? Most expecting parents hear their baby’s heartbeat for the first time around eight to ten weeks during a prenatal visit.
However, the exact timing for when you will first hear your baby’s heartbeat can depend on several factors, including your anatomy and your baby’s position. For example, if you have a tilted uterus or the placenta is in the way of the monitor, it can be hard to find a heartbeat.
If you don’t hear your baby’s heartbeat at this time, it is not necessarily a cause for concern.
It’s also important to be aware that while these initial heart sounds are a good sign of a healthy pregnancy, your baby’s heart has not fully developed yet. It is not until 17 to 20 weeks gestation that a fetus develops all four heart chambers.
At that 17 to 20-week mark, the American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists considers the sounds you hear a true heartbeat.
How Will Your Baby’s Heart Sound?
The pulse of your baby’s heart early in pregnancy creates a fast galloping sound. It will sound like a rapid thump-thump-thump with no discernible pattern. The rhythm should remain consistent throughout your pregnancy until the delivery day arrives.
Your healthcare providers will monitor these sounds throughout your pregnancy to ensure healthy fetal heart development.
How Can You Hear Your Baby’s Heartbeat?
Your doctor will periodically monitor fetal heartbeat during your prenatal visits. They will use a few tools to find the baby’s heartbeat, including ultrasounds, fetal dopplers, and stethoscopes. The tool they use depends on your pregnancy stage and what the doctor needs to see.
Your baby changes so much from week to week throughout your pregnancy. Any changes in how your baby’s heart beats may indicate problems with their development. An irregular heartbeat could also be a sign of congenital heart defects.
For this reason, you should follow your doctor’s recommendations and attend all your scheduled prenatal visits.
Outside of doctors’ appointments, many expectant parents want to listen to the beat of their baby’s heart themselves. Hearing the rhythmic beat can be a bonding experience that provides a sense of connection to the unborn child.
Some parents like to listen in on their baby to ease anxiety and concerns between doctor visits.
You can use some of the same tools available in your doctor’s office at home to hear your baby’s heartbeat. Here’s what you need to know about when, where, and how to use them.
When Can You Hear Baby’s Heartbeat On Ultrasound Scans?
Two types of fetal ultrasound scans can monitor fetal development during pregnancy, transvaginal and abdominal.
A transvaginal ultrasound scan can detect the earliest signs of cardiac activity at around six weeks and confirm a viable pregnancy. Abdominal ultrasounds can produce detailed images of your baby’s development at approximately 20 weeks gestation.
Ultrasounds are only available at your doctor’s office. This technology uses sound waves to create a picture of your baby inside your womb. It does not use radiation and is safe for your baby when administered by a trained health professional.
Experts recommend that expectant mothers have at least one ultrasound during their pregnancy at around 18 to 22 weeks. While not part of standard care, many people also have a first-trimester ultrasound to confirm pregnancy, assess heartbeat, and check various other conditions.
Which type of ultrasound and how many you need throughout your pregnancy will be determined by your doctor.
When Can You Hear Baby’s Heartbeat On Doppler?
A fetal doppler is a handheld ultrasound device specifically used to monitor an unborn baby’s heartbeat. Starting at around 12 weeks of gestation, your doctor may regularly use this device to check on your baby during your prenatal visits.
Fetal doppler tests, like ultrasound scans, use sound waves to monitor your baby’s development. They are deemed safe for you and your baby when administered by a health professional.
The difference between fetal doppler tests and ultrasound scans is that ultrasound scans display images, while a fetal doppler test only transmits sounds.
Fetal doppler devices consist of a probe and a central unit. The probe is placed on a pregnant person’s bare abdomen and repositioned until fetal and placental sounds are detected. These sounds can then be heard and assessed through the central unit.
You may have heard that fetal doppler devices are available for home use. At this time, the Food and Drug Administration advises against the use of home doppler tests.
While there is no evidence that using them will harm your baby’s development, no studies exist to confirm that frequent use of these devices at home is safe either.
Furthermore, faulty test results can lead to a false sense of concern or a false sense of reassurance. For now, It’s best to let your doctor handle this type of monitoring.
When Can You Hear A Baby’s Heartbeat With A Stethoscope?
Stethoscopes are a popular choice for monitoring fetal heartbeat at home. These devices are low-tech, easy to use, and widely available. The downside, stethoscopes can’t detect your baby’s heartbeat until later in pregnancy, usually around the late second trimester.
Stethoscopes are acoustic devices designed to amplify small sounds within the body. They consist of a chest piece connected to an earpiece with a set of tubes.
By placing the chest piece on your abdomen, you can pick up the sounds of your baby’s movement and heartbeat. These sounds transmit through the tubes into the earpiece where you can listen.
Using a stethoscope can be a fun way to connect with your soon-to-be bundle of joy, but be cautious about diagnosing issues with your pregnancy based on what you hear.
There are many reasons why you may not hear your baby’s heartbeat with a stethoscope at any given time. Take a deep breath and let your doctor know about your concerns.
How Baby’s Heartbeat Changes Throughout Pregnancy
Once you hear your baby’s heart, it’s common to wonder if what you hear is normal. A normal fetal heartbeat falls somewhere between 110 to 160 beats per minute. This rate is much faster than a standard adult heart rate which ranges between 80 to 100 beats per minute.
However, as a baby develops, its heartbeat gradually changes with each stage of pregnancy. The fetal heartbeat is fastest in the first trimester, then gradually slows down during the second and third trimesters.
However, it remains much faster than a typical adult’s heart rate. It’s also normal for your baby’s heart rate to fluctuate throughout the day, as yours does.
These fluctuations relate to your baby’s activity level (i.e., whether they are awake or asleep), how active you are, and even what you’ve eaten recently.
As long as you can feel your baby moving as usual, there is no need to be concerned with these normal fluctuations. However, do not hesitate to contact your doctor.
The Bottom Line
Hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time is an unforgettable moment filled with joy and excitement that marks the beginning of a beautiful journey ahead! This moment usually occurs during the tenth week of pregnancy for most mothers-to-be.
Still, it could be earlier or later, depending on several factors, such as the mother’s anatomy and the baby’s positioning. If anything feels out of the ordinary during any stage of your pregnancy, reach out to your healthcare professional immediately.
+ 2 sources
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- Acog.org. (2020). How Your Fetus Grows During Pregnancy. [online] Available at: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/how-your-fetus-grows-during-pregnancy
- Office (2020). Avoid Fetal ‘Keepsake’ Images, Heartbeat Monitors. [online] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/avoid-fetal-keepsake-images-heartbeat-monitors