When Does the Fetal Heartbeat Start?

Congratulations! You just took a home pregnancy test and discovered you are pregnant! Excited about the pregnancy and eager to ensure both your well-being and your baby's health, you hurry and schedule an appointment with your doctor. One of the things you're looking forward to is hearing the heartbeat of your little one. But can you hear these heartbeats during your first visit to the gynecologist? Keep reading this article to find out when the fetal heartbeat begins and when you might be able to hear it.

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Omooma
Published on:Dec 14th 2023 |Updated on:Mar 10th 2024
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When Does the Fetal Heartbeat Begin?

The heart cells that will later form the fetus's heart start developing around the fifth or sixth week of pregnancy. During this period, when you visit your doctor, you may be able to see the heartbeats through ultrasound imaging. You might even get to hear your baby's heartbeat during this visit.

My Experience with Fetal Heartbeat

As I prepared this article, I reflected on my personal experience with fetal heartbeat. After confirming my pregnancy through a hormone test, I eagerly visited my obstetrician to see and hear the heartbeat, the first sign of life from the womb. However, my excitement turned to unprecedented sadness when, during an abdominal ultrasound, the doctor fell silent and eventually revealed that there was no heartbeat. My first pregnancy joy turned into unparalleled sorrow. Then, my husband and I decided to seek a second opinion from another doctor.

The second doctor, taking the time to investigate my menstrual cycle and previous cycle dates, acknowledged the irregularity of my periods. She opted for a vaginal ultrasound, which, within minutes, detected the reassuring sound of my baby's heartbeat filling the room. It turned out that the gestational age was less than initially estimated, highlighting the importance of vaginal ultrasound for greater accuracy, especially before the 11th week of pregnancy. I must underline that this procedure poses no risk to the pregnancy or the fetus.

Reasons for the Absence of Fetal Heartbeat

It's crucial not to rush to conclusions about the absence of a fetal heartbeat, as there are often reasons why it may not be visible or audible, including:

  • Visiting the doctor too early into the pregnancy.
  • Fetal positioning in the uterus hinders ultrasound detection.
  • Uterine tilt.
  • Maternal obesity.

When Does the Fetal Heart Form?

The formation of the fetal heart begins around the tenth week of pregnancy, and the heart's four chambers develop roughly in the fifth month between the seventeenth and twentieth weeks of pregnancy. Therefore, an ultrasound test during this period is vital for tracking fetal development.

Monitoring Fetal Heartbeat

It's important to note that readings from medical devices used in doctors' clinics, operated by professionals, should be relied upon. Avoid using home devices to track fetal heartbeats, as many are sold online. Here are the methods doctors use to monitor fetal heartbeat:

  • Vaginal ultrasound.
  • Doppler device and ultrasound imaging.
  • An electrode pole device, rarely used, monitors the fetal heart internally.

Fetal Heart Rate by Week

  • Week 6: Fetal heart cells beat at 110 beats per minute.
  • Week 8: Fetal heart rate rises to 150-170 beats per minute.
  • Week 9-10: The fetal heart beats 170 beats per minute.
  • Week 20: Heart rate decreases to around 140 beats per minute.
  • During Labor, Fetal heart rate is monitored to ensure the baby's well-being. The average rate ranges between 110-160 beats per minute.

Why Does Fetal Heartbeat Stop?

  • Ectopic pregnancy.
  • Chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus.
  • Early miscarriage.
  • Viral and bacterial infections in the mother.
  • Blood clotting disorders.

Fetal Gender and Heartbeat

There's a lot of talk about determining the baby’s gender based on heartbeats. According to some beliefs, a slower heartbeat indicates a male fetus, while a faster one suggests a female. However, studies have shown no significant difference in heart rates between male and female fetuses over the years. Therefore, fetal gender cannot be determined by the heart rate.

 

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OmoomaOmooma | First Online Arabic Motherhood Training Platform

Omooma is the first Online platform offering classes in Arabic dedicated to mothers and mothers-to-be. In addition to content covering many relevant topics, women’s health, pregnancy, fertility, child’s health, and parenting. Omooma’s articles are written by medical writers, based on extensive research, and reviewed by a panel of experts who are part of the largest team of experts available in the region in all fields related to the journey of motherhood.

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