If you’re using a fetal doppler to detect your baby’s heartbeat, you’re probably curious what the normal range is.
Knowing the fetal doppler heart rate ranges can give you a better idea about whether your baby’s changes are normal.
One thing to know is that heartbeats will change as your baby develops. Seeing a drop in her heart rate may be alarming at first, but when you learn about their growth process, you’ll see it’s completely normal.
Read on to learn the typical fetal doppler heart rate ranges.
What is a Fetal Heartbeat Monitor?
A fetal heartbeat monitor, AKA fetal doppler, is a pocket-sized device that you can use to detect a fetus heartbeat. It works similar to an ultrasound: you’ll hear the beat through speakers and see the fetal heart rate (FHR) on the screen.
Fetal heartbeat monitors are used by health professionals during prenatal appointments. Affordable versions are also sold for at-home use. This allows a mother to monitor her baby in between appointments. Although they do not replace check-ups, they help provide reassurance for nervous parents.
This can be particularly helpful for those who’ve experienced pregnancy loss. Previous miscarriages can make current pregnancies anxiety-ridden. Having a doppler gives some women a sense of knowledge about her baby’s health.
Since the BabyDoppler app allows you to record your baby’s heartbeat, you can also play it back for your doctor or midwife. This is helpful if you suspect an abnormality or want reassurance during telehealth appointments where in-person examination isn’t possible.
Along with monitoring your baby, the fetal doppler provides a fun way to bond with your fetus. You can even get the family involved and introduce them to the baby before birth.
To learn more about fetal dopplers, read:
Using a Heartbeat Monitor to Detect a Fetal Heartbeat
When you attend your prenatal appointments, your doctor or midwife will use a fetal doppler to detect your baby’s heartbeat. This gives them a general sense of how they’re developing. Although you don’t have the same medical expertise, you can still get a fetal heart rate reading at home using a fetal doppler.
To detect a heartbeat using your own fetal doppler, follow the steps below:
1. Lay down or recline
2. Apply ultrasound gel to your lower belly
3. Stick probe in gel and turn device on
4. Glide probe in a rocking motion
5. Listen to the noise and watch the screen to see when you detect your fetus
6. If you want, record the heartbeat on the BabyDoppler app to share with others
7. When you’re finished using the device, turn it off and wipe the probe clean using paper towel
Using a fetal doppler is straightforward. The trick is learning to detect the right noise. One way is by learning the normal fetal doppler heart rate range.
For more tips on using your fetal doppler, read:
Fetal Doppler Heart Rate Ranges
Before using a fetal doppler, you should know the normal ranges of a fetal heart rate. This can let you know if you’ve detected the right noise. It will also help you know whether there’s been a drop in your baby’s normal patterns.
General Fetus Heart Rate Range
A normal range for a fetus heart rate is 120-160 beats per minute (bpm). Some guidelines state that between 110-160 bpm is safe. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, a heartbeat may vary by 5 to 25 bpm.
Fetal Doppler Heart Rate Changes Throughout Pregnancy
You can expect your baby’s heartbeat to change as they develop. Your baby’s heart starts beating around 5 or 6 weeks. However, it will probably take longer to hear. At the doctor’s office, you might be able to see a heartbeat but not hear it. Although you can’t detect it, their heart rate should be around 80-110 bpm at this stage. (Read: When Is Your Baby’s First Heartbeat?)
As your baby’s heart grows, it’s able to produce more sound waves to create a detectable noise. This might happen during an 8-week ultrasound. By 9 weeks, your baby’s heartbeat will be around 170 bpm.
With an at-home fetal doppler device, most women can pick up a heartbeat around 12 weeks. However, you may hear it a little earlier or later. Although your baby’s heartbeat was higher during week 9, it typically declines to around 150 bpm by week 14.
Why does your baby’s heartbeat get higher and then drop? Experts say the high heartbeat occurs as their heart is developing. With some time, their system matures and it returns to a lower level.
Your Heart Rate
Knowing the heart rate range of an adult is also helpful. That’s because the fetal doppler also picks up your own heartbeat and an artery pulse. The average heart rate of a resting adult is 60-100 bpm.
When comparing the two heartbeats, it should be easy to tell: A baby’s heartbeat will sound much faster.
Other Fetal Heartbeat Monitor Noises
Your fetal doppler will also pick up noises other than a heartbeat, like placenta. It’s essential to differentiate this noise from your baby’s heartbeat. One way to do this is to pay attention to the sound. For example, many describe the sound of placenta as a “whoosh” while a fetus heart is comparable to galloping horses.
Another way to tell whether you’ve picked up a heartbeat is to look at the fetal doppler heart rate displayed on the screen. If it displays between the typical range of a fetus, it’s likely your probe is on the right spot.
Fetal Doppler Heart Rate UNDER Normal Range
Many times, a baby’s heart rate is slightly under the normal heart rate range and they’re still healthy. However, if you think your baby’s heartbeat is lower than what it should be, contact your doctor or midwife.
Heart rates slower than normal ranges may be caused by chromosomal abnormalities.
Fetal Doppler Heart Rate ABOVE Normal Range
Many times, a baby’s heart rate is above the normal heart rate range and they’re still healthy.
Some fluctuation is okay. Sometimes your baby’s heartbeat isn’t out of range but it’s a lot higher than it normally is. In these cases, consider if anything could have caused it. For example, products containing caffeine can raise your heartbeat and your baby’s.
If you’re worried, call your doctor or midwife. Heart rates faster than normal ranges may be caused by chromosomal abnormalities.
CHANGING Fetal Doppler Heart Rate
It’s normal for a fetal heart rate to change throughout pregnancy. It will raise and slowly decline as they develop.
You can also expect a slightly different heart rate a few days later, or even in the same day. If this happens, don’t be alarmed.
If you notice a significant change in heart rate, especially if they’re accompanied by a loss of movement, contact your doctor or midwife.
Fetal Heart Arrhythmia
Fetal Heart Arrhythmia are abnormalities in your baby’s heartbeat. This can include a heartbeat that’s slower or faster than normal. It may also include an irregular heart rhythm.
An arrhythmia occurs in about 1-2% of pregnancies but most cases aren’t serious. For example, your baby’s heart rate may be elevated because of an explainable cause—like coffee. When you cut down or completely cut out caffeine, your baby’s heart rate returns to normal without any medical intervention.
Other arrhythmias require a specialist to diagnose and treat the issue. For example, an arrhythmia can be caused by heart structure problems. In this case, therapies might be suggested and you’ll be monitored more closely.
It’s important to realize that fetal dopplers can’t be used by the layperson to diagnose issues. While you might suspect an issue, you’ll need a medical professional to confirm or deny it.
Summary: Fetal Doppler Heart Rate Ranges
The normal fetal doppler heart rate ranges from 120-160 bpm. This will vary based on the day and your pregnancy stage. While a baby’s heart rate is elevated around 9 weeks, it will decline by week 14 as they mature.
If you use a fetal doppler to check your baby a few days apart, you may get a slightly different reading. Some fluctuation is normal. If you notice sudden rises or drops in your baby’s heart rate or any other major changes, contact your healthcare provider.