Pregnancy, a journey of joy that bundles with several challenges.
Listening to a baby’s heartbeat during the pregnancy is the best moment to cherish that provides joy and the sense beginning of parental care.
Usually, parents can listen to the baby’s heartbeat when they visit the prenatal center but often we wonder ‘when & how can they hear the baby’s heartbeat during pregnancy at home?’
Can You Hear Your Baby’s Heartbeat at Home?
Yes, you can easily hear the baby’s heartbeats at the 8th week of pregnancy with ultrasound examination, at 12th week with a fetal Doppler and from 18th to 20 weeks with a stethoscope.
How long do you have to wait?
Usually, vaginal ultrasound begins to pick up the baby’s heart sound during the 6 week after gestation.
But doctors will not be able to pick the clear sound with a stethoscope during 6th to 18th week of pregnancy. After that it is relatively easy to hear the sound using a stethoscope.
Though you can hear the baby’s heartbeat as early as 5 to 6 week of pregnancy, it is always better to wait till the 8th week.
Waiting will give the baby’s heart enough time to develop as well as will help avoid the confusion & distress if you could not locate or detect the sound.
When does a baby’s heart start beating for the first time?
During the development of our body, the heart is the first organ to develop in the womb.
In early days of pregnancy, when the embryo only has few cells, they get nutrients from surroundings but as they begin to divide & multiply, it becomes difficult to provide nutrition to each cell.
In such a scenario, the heart and circulatory system develops first that carries nutrients to the cell and carries back waste.
Once it begins, the heart carries out its work throughout our lives and keeps pumping the blood across the body.
How Is Baby’s Heart Rate Calculated?
Whether it is the baby’s heart rate or adults, the ideal method is to count the heartbeat for one minute.
But you can count the beats for 15 seconds and multiply it with 4 to get 60 seconds count. The total beats of heart in one minute is considered as the heart rate of a baby.
What Is the Normal Rate of Foetal Heartbeat?
120 to 160 heart beats per minute is termed as a normal heart rate of the fetus.
But it can vary as per the movement of the fetus and few other factors. With movements, it can go up to 180 to 190 BPM which is usually considered normal.
But if you suspect the heart rate is not normal or it remains elevated for a longer duration then you should consult the healthcare provider .
Your doctor will check all the possible reasons for suspected abnormal heart rate and will advice you accordingly.
What are the Different Ways to Hear Baby’s Heartbeat During Pregnancy?
You can’t listen to the baby’s heartbeat merely using your ears. You need medical equipment like a stethoscope to do that.
Here are the most common gadgets, usually preferred to listen to a baby’s heartbeat.
- Pinard horn
- Fetal dopplers
- Fetal monitor
Stethoscope and fetoscopes are easiest among the all, while fetal doppler and monitors provide concise readings.
Pinard horn is an old device and nowadays, it is a less commonly practiced method of listening to baby’s heart sound.
Where to buy a stethoscope?
You don’t have to be a doctor or healthcare provider to get your hands on the stethoscope as they are widely available in medical supply stores.
You can even buy one online. But before you buy make sure that the stethoscope you are buying has the best acoustic quality.
One of our favorite stethoscopes is the Littmann stethoscope. It does the job, has great acoustic quality and importantly it is widely used & recommended by doctors.
How can you hear a baby’s heartbeat with a stethoscope?
After the 18th week of pregnancy, heart beats of the baby become audible when listened with a stethoscope..
Here are step-by-step tips for listening the baby’s heartbeat using stethoscope –
1 Use quiet room
It is obvious that you will require a quieter room to hear the baby’s heartbeat. The quiet place will make the listening process easy and you don’t have to strain your ears as you will be able to focus solely on heartbeats.
Turn off the noise making gadgets like radio, tv and put your mobile on silent mode if required.
2 Lie down & feel the baby’s back
Use the soft mattress to lie down on your back.
Now, keep your hand over the belly and slowly move the palm around to feel the back of the baby.
Listening to the baby’s heartbeat through the baby’s back is a bit better than other places. The section of your stomach where the baby’s back is located will feel like a hard yet smooth surface.
3 Use stethoscope
Once you locate the back of the baby, you can place the chest piece of stethoscope over this area and listen to the sounds coming in through the earpiece.
Often, you will not be able to hear the sound. So, slowly move the chest piece around and try to locate the exact area where you will get the heartbeats.
Usually, the fetal heart sound resembles the sound of watch ticking underneath the pillow.
Also, the fetal heartbeats are fast and difficult to locate as it mixes with other sounds like the swishing sound of blood flowing through your uterine vessels.
Can’t hear the heartbeat – Here is what you should do
Chances that you will not be able to hear heartbeat in your first attempt.
Wait for a few minutes, indulge yourself in some other activity or take 5 minutes walk then repeat the procedure.
Don’t be anxious, neither should you rush the procedure. Give yourself sufficient time to locate the back of the baby and find the heartbeats.
Remember, using a stethoscope before the 18th week of pregnancy will not yield positive results. Also, locating the heartbeat sound is a bit difficult, especially for those who have never done it before.
Often, fetals position themselves in such a position that it becomes difficult to hear the heart sound.
If you fail in your second attempt and believe that there might be something wrong about it then you can consult your OB-GYN.
Different Ways to Hear Baby’s Heartbeat During Pregnancy
As we discussed earlier, a stethoscope is one of the ways to listen to the heart sound of your baby. There are several other options available.
Using portable, at-home fetal doppler is one of the options you can try.
They are portable devices, easy to use and fairly better than that of stethoscopes for enhancing the sound.
In India, they are readily available to buy online at Amazon.in.
Though, you can use the at-home fetal doppler to listen to the baby’s heartbeat from the comfort of your home, FDA suggests not to do so.
Because, it will be used by untrained hands which might trigger an unwanted alarm or false sense of security.
Is it safe to use a fetal Doppler at home?
Fetal dopplers are fairly safe when used by healthcare providers.
But when used at-home by an untrained person it may be used in the wrong way or can trigger false health alarms or sense of false security.
Healthcare providers like your OB-Gyn, nurses & radiologists are trained to use these devices.
They know exactly how to carry out the procedure, how much pressure needs to be applied and even how to locate the position of the fetus.
In India, fetal dopplers are readily available for the public to buy as OTC products and you can use it at your home but before that you need to learn the proper technique.
Also, during which week you are using it also matters as the baby’s heart sound is not audible in the early stage of pregnancy.