The Fetal Heartbeat: Let's hear it!
A baby's heart begins to beat in the first trimester of pregnancy about 8 weeks into the pregnancy. It is however difficult to detect the fetal heartbeat, often referred to as fetal heart tones (FHT) until the 9th or 10th week, even when you use a fetal Doppler. Unlike an adult's heartbeat, a baby's heart beat is much faster at about 180 beats per minute (BPM) but later settles down and ranges between 120-160 beats per minute for the rest of the pregnancy.
How to monitor the Fetal Heartbeat
It is important to always monitor the fetal heartbeat as well as the baby's growth and development as part of parental care before the child is born. You do not have to visit a pediatrician to monitor your baby's heartbeat, as it is possible to do this for yourself in the comfort of your own home. You however need to learn how to monitor the fetal heartbeat. You will require a Fetal Doppler to be able to do this which is simple a small device that monitors your baby's heartbeat. It is a convenient and safe way to monitor your baby's heartbeat. It is thus possible to know the number of heartbeats your baby experiences every minute. A fetal doppler simply works by bouncing sound waves off your baby's heart and listening to the changes made to these sound waves by your baby's heart. It then outputs these changed sound waves as the baby's heartbeat. Always make sure that you are using an FDA-approved doppler.
How to hear the baby's heart rate with a fetal doppler.
- You should read all the instructions of how to use it carefully and listen to it prior to any pregnancy exams so that you can familiarize yourself with how your baby's heartbeat sounds.
- You should also make sure that your fetal doppler is working and in good condition and before you use it, make sure you apply a lot of ultrasound gel to the face of the doppler probe and to your belly as well.
- Try and find a comfortable place that you can lie down or sit in a comfy chair and slowly start moving the probe starting with the mid-section of your belly and gently rocking back and forth making sure you cover the entire area of your stomach.
- To get the best amplification possible, the fetal doppler should always be in contact with your stomach at all times. You should apply more ultrasound gel if you hear any static from the fetal doppler.
If you do not hear the baby's heartbeat, you should not panic, you may still; be in the early stages of pregnancy, and if this is not the case, the baby may simply be positioned in a manner that does not allow the doppler to pick up the baby's heartbeat.
You can also monitor the fetal heart rate using an ultrasound. An ultra sound can detect a fetal heartbeat as early as 6 weeks into the pregnancy which is much earlier that when you can it using a fetal doppler. An early ultrasound helps in correctly dating your pregnancy and helps you get a due date that is accurate.
A normal fetal heartbeat indicates that the pregnancy is proceeding as without any complications and it is a very re-assuring sound to hear. You and you practitioner can ensure that your baby is in good health and growing properly by regularly listening to the baby's heartbeat. There are several things that have been found to affect the fetal heart rate and one of them is stress. A pregnant woman's heart rate and blood pressure can be affected if she has chronic stress but in no way affect the fetal heart rate. They can only lead to the risk of low birth weight or a premature birth but rarely affect the child's behavior and functionality later on in life. Miscarriages have been known to occur in only as little as one percent of pregnancies where the baby has shown a normal fetal heart rate. It is therefore very re-assuring for a parent that the baby is developing normally if the baby has a normal fetal heart beat.
Finally, there are several myths that come with knowledge of the fetal heart rate. One of them is that you can use the fetal heartbeat to predict gender of the unborn baby. This myth is based on the notion that females have higher metabolisms than their male counterparts and suggest that a fetal heartbeat below 140 beats per minute indicates that the baby is a boy and any lower than 140 beats per minute, that the bay is a girl. This as we have just stated is a myth that has no truth to it and you should therefore pay no attention to it.