When Is Your Baby’s First Heartbeat? (+ Hear It From Home)
If you’re reading this post, it’s probably because you recently found out you’re pregnant, so congrats!
One of the first and biggest milestones during pregnancy is hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time. For many women, this is when the thought of being a mother really kicks in and they realize the miracle of life.
In this post, we’ll outline when you can first hear your baby’s heartbeat during doctor’s appointments. And did you know that you can also hear it at home? We’ll tell you how.
When Is Your Baby’s First Heartbeat?
During the 5th week, your baby’s cardiac cells are partially organized to form a heart. She should have a steady beat and be the size of a lentil bean. However, some hearts start beating a little sooner or later.
Around the 6th week, her heart will start pumping blood.
If you’re actively trying to conceive, you may have taken a pregnancy test and already know you’re expecting. However, if the pregnancy was unplanned, many women first notice changes around the 7th week, after their baby’s first heartbeat.
When Can You First Hear Your Baby’s Heartbeat?
Some scans may be able to detect a gestational sac in the 4th or 5th week. However, you won’t be able to detect a heartbeat yet.
Although your baby’s heart is developed enough to start beating around 5 or 6 weeks, it will probably take a bit longer to hear. If you have an early ultrasound exam, your doctor may be able to see a heartbeat, but not hear it. Because your baby’s heart is too small at this time, it doesn’t make enough sound waves for the beat to be audible.
An ultrasound around 8 weeks may be able to detect an audible heartbeat. However, it’s your decision whether you’d like an early ultrasound. Your doctor may recommend one if you have an at-risk pregnancy. Some doctors prefer to wait a few weeks until after the first trimester.
During your regular pregnancy checkups, you’ll also get to hear the heartbeat when the doctor uses a fetal doppler. The device can pick up the heartbeat starting around 10 weeks; however, many women need to wait until 12 weeks. How early you can hear her depends on her position, weight and how accurate your due date is.
Once you hear your baby’s heartbeat, you’ll probably hear it during the remaining doctor’s visits.
Another way your doctor can monitor the heartbeat is by using a fetoscope. This instrument is similar to a stethoscope and can be used by pressing it against your abdomen to find your baby’s back. Once detected, your baby’s heartbeat will be amplified. Although your doctor may use it to try to locate a heartbeat starting at 12 weeks, it often takes longer. Some doctors opt to use it later in pregnancy—around the 20th week.
Complications Hearing Your Baby’s Heartbeat
Some mothers worry that they’ve miscarried if a heartbeat isn’t detected or heard, and that’s not necessarily true.
If an 8-week ultrasound scan doesn’t detect a heartbeat, it could be because your due date is off. Your estimated due date can be wrong by up to two weeks. In this case, you’d need to wait a couple of weeks longer for your baby to develop.
If your doctor uses a fetal doppler at 10 weeks to pick up a heartbeat and it’s not audible, don’t worry. You may need to wait an extra couple of weeks for your baby to develop enough or to move into a better position. Your doctor will tell you when you should come back to check.
Pregnancy complications and a difficulty locating a heartbeat could be the cause of a more serious problem. Talk to your doctor if you experience any signs of miscarriage. These include:
- Mild or severe back pain
- Weight loss
- Brown or bright red bleeding (bleeding could also be implantation bleeding)
- Tissue expelled from the vagina
- Weight loss
- Loss of pregnancy symptoms
Hearing Your Baby’s Heartbeat Using a Fetal Doppler
Although the first heartbeat you hear will likely be during an ultrasound exam, you can also listen to your baby’s heartbeat at home using a fetal doppler.
If you’ve seen your doctor use a doppler, you probably already have a good idea of how they function. The probe glides over ultrasound gel until the device detects a heartbeat that you can hear through built-in speakers or headphones. Doctors may use more complicated models and since they’re professionals, they can use the device to detect abnormalities.
Although you may not be as skilled as a doctor, there are still benefits to using a fetal doppler at home. Many expecting mothers say it’s rewarding to hear their baby’s heartbeat whenever they’d like. If you’re a worrier or have had miscarriages before, hearing the heartbeat can provide reassurance that your baby is okay. It can also be a bonding activity for the entire family. You can use it to introduce your children to the new baby and it’s one of the few ways for your partner to bond before birth.
If you didn’t know you could use a doppler at home, you’re probably curious. In this section, we’ll go over some frequently asked questions surrounding fetal heartbeat monitors.
When Can I First Hear My Baby’s Heartbeat Using an At-Home Doppler?
We recommend that you first try a fetal doppler around 12 weeks. It’s possible for a heartbeat to be detected as early as 8 or 10 weeks; however, it’s less common. Since not hearing your baby this early may cause anxiety, it’s often better to wait.
What Does a Baby Heartbeat Sound Like?
Many women compare the sound of their baby’s heartbeat to the sound of galloping horses. If you’re unsure what it’s supposed to sound like, it may help to watch videos of other women using a doppler.
How Do I Use a Fetal Doppler?
Fetal dopplers are easy to use. Simply lie down, spread ultrasound gel over your lower belly and turn the probe on. Glide the probe in a rocking motion until you detect a heartbeat. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to properly use it. If you’re wondering if you’re using it correctly, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1-800-590-2767. You may also ask your doctor if he or she can give you a quick tutorial on your next visit.
What If I Can’t Detect a Heartbeat?
If you can’t detect a heartbeat at 12 weeks or earlier, it could be too early. If you’ve previously detected a heartbeat and can’t seem to find it now, don’t worry. Your baby could simply be in a different position. Take a break and try again in a few hours or the next day. Some women find it easier to detect a heartbeat when they have a full bladder or when they first wake up in the morning (when you’re least bloated). The bigger your baby gets, the easier it should be to hear her heartbeat. If you have a feeling something is wrong, call your doctor.
What Does bpm Mean?
If you have a doppler with an LCD screen, it will display your baby’s beats per minute, or bpm. If you detect a heartbeat by week 8, it should be around 172 bpm. By week 9, it could range from 155 to 195 bpm. After week 9, the heartbeat will begin to decrease to around 120 to 160 bpm.
What Sounds Can Be Mistaken for a Heartbeat?
There are a few noises that can be mistaken for a heartbeat or that can interrupt your ability to hear it. This includes your own heartbeat, digestive processes, arterial blood flow and baby movements. A healthy adult’s heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 bpm, so if your device displays a bpm within this range, it’s likely picking up on your own arteries and veins.
What Are The Differences In Models?
There’s some no-fuss models that are best for mothers that don’t want anything too complicated. Then there are more sophisticated versions that display the beats per minute and heartrate graphs. These can also be used by doctors or midwives. Our dopplers range in affordable prices from around $20 to $70. If you’re wondering which model would suit you best, check out our Fetal Doppler Model Guide.
Are Fetal Dopplers Safe?
Fetal dopplers cannot diagnose or treat medical problems and do not replace checkups. If you think you detect an irregularity, you can record the sound and have your doctor listen. Alternatively, you should simply tell your doctor your concern. Be sure to only purchase devices that are FDA-approved. Before using a doppler, you should do some research on how to use it correctly to ensure you’re not mistaking the baby’s heartbeat for another noise.
Have you heard your baby’s heartbeat yet? Comment below how far along you are. If you have any pregnant friends, educate them by sending them this article.