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When can you hear a baby’s heartbeat with Doppler?

Pregnant women and expecting mothers are always eager to hear their baby’s heartbeat. But when can you actually hear it? And what should you expect during your prenatal appointments? This blog post will answer all of your questions about hearing your baby’s heartbeat!

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When can you hear a baby's heartbeat with Doppler?

The answer may depend on a couple of different factors.
While the heart starts to develop very early on, the heartbeat sound may not be picked up until about 6-8 weeks of pregnancy, depending on the type of ultrasound you get.

If you are getting a transvaginal ultrasound, you may be able to hear the heartbeat sound as early as 6 weeks, while with the transabdominal ultrasound it could be around 8 weeks.

Lately, home Doppler devices have been gaining popularity, especially during COVID-19 restrictions. Those devices are small portable Doppler systems that are inexpensive and handy, but lack in sensitivity of professional grade equipment. Therefore, you may not be able to hear the heartbeat with some those systems until around 10-12 weeks. 

What to expect during your first ultrasound appointment?

At your first prenatal visit, your doctor will likely use a handheld Doppler device to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. You may also be sent to an ultrasound lab that will use ultrasound to get a look at the baby, as well as using Doppler for the heartbeat. Doppler measures the velocity of blood (blood cells) and determines the direction of blood flow. This comes with a specific sound, which varies depending on the location within the heart the signal is coming from.

The ultrasound or handheld Doppler machines amplify the sound of the heartbeat and make it easier to hear. The doctor or the sonographer will place the device on your tummy and move it around until they find the right spot.

If your sonographer is having trouble finding the heartbeat, don’t worry. It’s perfectly normal, especially early on in pregnancy. The baby may just be in a tricky spot, and since they are so small and the heart is really tiny at that point, it may be hard to get a proper signal. 
A real-time ultrasound imaging will make it easier to find the heart because the sonographer can see it and can aim the Doppler better, putting the signal in the right spot.

Once you do hear the heartbeat, it’s likely that you’ll be relieved and feel a wave of happiness wash over you. It’s an amazing moment that you’ll never forget! The sound of the heartbeat is usually very fast, somewhere between 120 and 160 beats per minute. It’s actually faster than your own heartbeat, which may come as a surprise as we are told that a fast heartbeat isn’t good for us. However, babies and, in fact, kids have heart rates much higher than that of adults, and that is completely normal.

Heartbeat changes throughout pregnancy

Your baby’s heart will continue to develop during pregnancy. During the first several weeks of pregnancy, a fetal heartbeat ranges from 90 to 110 beats per minute. It will rise and peak between 140 and 170 bpm during weeks 9 and 10.

In the second and third trimesters, a typical fetal heartbeat is between 110 and 160 beats per minute. Remember that your baby’s heartbeat will change during your pregnancy and at each prenatal checkup.

If your baby’s heartbeat is too slow, too rapid, or irregular, your doctor may be worried. If this is the case, your baby may have a heart condition. That’s why, at each visit, your doctor will listen to your baby’s heartbeat.

What devices are used to hear a baby’s heartbeat?

Aside from the handheld Doppler, there are other devices that can be used to hear the baby’s heartbeat. Fetal monitors are also Doppler devices that are usually strapped to your body and are used during labour and delivery to continuously monitor the baby’s heart rate. 

Some hospitals and clinics have special machines called fetal stethoscopes. These devices are placed on the belly like a regular stethoscope and can pick up even the faintest of heartbeats.

In some of the more difficult cases, an internal monitor could be utilized. This device is inserted into your cervix and then into the baby’s scalp, and gives a much more accurate reading, because it doesn’t rely on the Doppler beam being perfectly aligned with the fetal heart, and it does not get moved or altered by movement. This is used if the external methods cannot give an accurate enough reading, and only if your water has broken and the cervix is open.

If you’re having trouble hearing your baby’s heartbeat, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor about other options or devices that can be used. They will be more than happy to help you out!

When are ultrasounds used?

An early pregnancy ultrasound is not offered to everyone. Your doctor’s choice, as well as the specifics of your pregnancy and medical records, will determine whether or not you get one. You may be recommended for an early pregnancy ultrasound if you have had vaginal bleeding, a previous pregnancy miscarriage, or other factors that make you or your healthcare practitioner more aware of possible concerns.

If you’re having a high-risk pregnancy, such as if you have a chronic medical condition or are utilizing fertility treatments, you’re more likely to acquire one. Certain clinicians use ultrasound to confirm pregnancy. Other diagnostic procedures, such as blood testing, are used by others.

Can you hear a baby’s heartbeat with the human ear?

A fetal heartbeat is very difficult to hear, as the faint sound is barely picked up by the human ear. However, some pregnant women claim to be able to hear their baby’s heartbeat through their belly. This could be possible late in the second or third trimester in a quiet place.

Can you use apps to hear baby’s heart beat?

Hundreds of applications and gadgets are now available for pregnant moms to listen to their baby’s heartbeat at home. However, your doctor may advise you not to use an at-home device. These applications and devices are of varying quality.

They may give you an incorrect heartbeat reading which could cause you to worry or induce fear. Consult your doctor to see if an at-home device is appropriate. They’ll be able to inform you if it’s safe to take while pregnant.

Final words

One way to bond with your baby before they are even born is by listening to their heartbeat. You can start hearing your baby’s heartbeat as early as 12 weeks gestation, and it gets louder and more distinct as the pregnancy progresses.

If you want to hear your little one’s heartbeat for yourself, we offer a 3D ultrasound service that will let you record it in our studio as early as 8 weeks of pregnancy. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and get started on this unforgettable experience!

Also read

3D Ultrasound - A Date With Baby

We hope you found these suggestions useful, and we look forward to seeing you for your 3D ultrasound session. Meanwhile, we'll be pleased to advise you on the ideal time to come in for your private 3D ultrasound scan. For further information, please contact us.
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