How soon can I hear my baby's heartbeat in pregnancy?

Listening to the baby's heartbeat with a doppler at prenatal care
Photo © Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Question: How soon can I hear my baby's heartbeat in pregnancy?

Answer: You can typically hear your baby's first heartbeat with a Doppler stethoscope between 9 and 12 weeks of pregnancy. There are some women who will hear it slightly earlier and some who will hear it slightly later. This delay can be due to mom's anatomy, miscalculated due dates and other non-problematic things. It can also be due to a problem with the pregnancy, like an impending miscarriage.

Be sure to ask your practitioner about what a normal fetal heart rate would be for that stage of pregnancy.

If your doctor or midwife does not hear the heartbeat when they would expect to hear it, they have several options, including:

"I went in for my eight week appointment. We had heard our other baby's heartbeat at that point, so I just assumed it was going to be the same," said a second time mom. "When they couldn't find the heartbeat at first, I just thought it was hiding. As the seconds began to feel longer and longer, I was feeling the panic rise. A different nurse came in and suggested I move a different way and she was able to find it.

Talk about being frightened... The doctor said it was normal and everything turned out fine."

The thought of going home without hearing it, particularly after ten weeks was more than this mom could bear, "They said to go home and come back in two weeks. I was already mulling over all the bad things in my mind.

I knew that I would go insane if I had to wait that long. After talking to the midwife, she agreed to let me have a quick ultrasound to assure me everything was fine. Fewer than five minutes later, we were all assured and I went home feeling much better about it."

If you are concerned, speak up. Be sure to talk to your midwife or doctor about your preferences and concerns. If they do not offer you options, ask specifically what your options are and why those are your options and why other options are off the table. For example, if you aren't offered an ultrasound, ask them why. It might be that they don't have the facilities available or that they simply didn't think about it because they aren't concerned. Only you can decide what feels right for you and your pregnancy.

Source:

Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. Gabbe, S, Niebyl, J, Simpson, JL. Fifth Edition.

The Official Lamaze Guide. Lothian, J and DeVries, C. Meadowbrook; 1 edition.

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