The Baby Heartbeat: What’s Behind The Best Sound In The World

A mother listening to baby heartbeat.

Pregnancy comes with an array of symptoms and emotions. Your hormones are all messed up, you feel dizzy at times and during the night, you either have a sudden craving of ice cream or you feel like your whole body is burning. You gain weight and instead of just embracing it, you make diet plans for the next 6 months after giving birth. In a nutshell, pregnancy is a b*tch. However, in between all those moments and symptoms that drain you, there is a ray of light…or, better said, the sweetest sound of 1000 horses galloping at the same moment – your baby’s heartbeat.


A baby heartbeat starts at 6 weeks.

Now now, I am aware that as a mother-to-be, you are very eager for your baby to give you palpable life signs. However, you’ll have to wait a bit, because a baby’s heart starts to beat when he/she is 6 weeks old. Curiously enough, you won’t hear the sound immediately afterwards, but in at least two weeks more at an ultrasound exam. Don’t be frightened if that heart doesn’t start thumping on cue though, since it could take as long as 12 weeks for you to be able to hear any kind of sound. The reason for this is a mix of factors, including the way your baby is positioned in your uterus, your weight and how accurate your due date is.


The best time to listen to baby heartbeat is at 12 weeks.

There’s no heartbeat like your baby’s. It’s hands-down one of the most heartwarming sounds you’ll ever hear. Many describe it as sounding like galloping horses, but really, you will probably be way too much into the moment to think about how it sounds. The heart rate of a baby ranges from 120 to 160 beats per minute – if your baby’s actual heartbeat is outside that range, it could be that your baby has heart issues.


You can listen to baby heartbeat with a doppler at home.

Technically, you can do it with a fetal Doppler, as early as 10 weeks, although it might take up to 12 weeks to hear it. A fetal Doppler is a monitor that a caregiver can use to locate your baby’s heartbeat. Covering it with ultrasound gel and moving it around your belly until finding the right spot should be enough for you to hear the sound of the fetal heartbeat. The Doppler works by sending and receiving sound waves and while you can buy the monitor for yourself, there are some precautions you need to take into consideration. Many experts advise against Doppler monitors, because for someone who is untrained, it can be difficult to find the fetal heartbeat. You could end up hearing the blood flow instead and mistake it for a heartbeat or you might not find it at all and end up feeling stressed out. Both scenarios can be dangerous, because on one hand, you might feel unnecessarily anxious when in fact everything is all right and on the other hand, you might think you are listening to the baby’s heartbeat, but in reality it’s something else. You would feel assured, only to find out later that there might be problems with the baby. Also worth mentioning is that by pressing on your tummy repeatedly to search for the fetal heartbeat, you can create yourself some discomfort – plus, it’s not really worth it to waste time trying to find it, when it’s much easier to hear it at an appointment with your doctor. Yes, you can rent and buy Doppler monitors, but don’t take them for granted.


You can listen to baby heartbeat using a stethoscope.

So far, we’ve only talked about ultrasounds and monitors, but there is another classical way to hear the wonderful thumping of your baby’s heartbeat. Doppler monitors are expensive and unreliable, so you might welcome this method more, albeit it can be a tad difficult to hear anything. You can in fact hear fetal heartbeat with a stethoscope. All it takes is a quiet room, some skills and patience and, of course, a stethoscope. To do that, lie on your back and press gently on your tummy – you’ll be looking to find your baby’s back. You can tell you found it when you are stumbling upon a smooth, but hard area. Place the stethoscope piece on that area and move it along up and down, until you pick a sound. Note that you might pick your own heartbeat, but you can usually differentiate it from your baby’s by counting the number of times you hear the thumping sound in a minute. Since babies have heart rates between 120 and 160 beats per minute, you practically can’t mistake them, since adults have considerably less beats per minute. If you can’t hear anything after multiple times, it might be either because you are trying it way too soon or because the position of the baby makes it more difficult for you to hear.


Baby's heartbeat doesn't reveal gender

There has been a theory floating around for months about being able to know if you’ll have a boy or a girl based on the number of beats per minute. In reality, it’s pretty much impossible to tell the gender based on the heartbeat, since the beats per minute fluctuate depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy. The heart rate starts slower, then by the 8th week it will be between 170-200 BMP, then reaching mid pregnancy will make the baby’s heartbeat decrease once again and settle down for an average between 120 and 160. The fetal heartbeat is of course also influenced by movement, just like it happens with us. The more you move, the faster does your heart beat and babies make no exception. If your baby is quite active and likes to shuffle his/her feet to say hi, you won’ be able to tell the gender based on heartbeat alone. There have been studies trying to find any kind of connection between heartbeats and gender, but they pretty much debunked the hypothesis. Curiously enough, a recent study did find that heart rates are different based on gender and that female fetuses do have higher heart rates than male ones, a discrepancy which only appears during the pregnancy. Still, because of all of the other factors involved in establishing the heart rate of the baby, making a gender prognosis based on that number is highly unreliable. And what’s the relevance anyway? In this day and age, the baby’s gender creates less of an impact, thanks to all of the walls protecting gender stereotypes being brought down. There isn’t the case anymore to prepare a room covered in pink and glitter, expecting to have a girl, only to realize in shock that you have in fact a boy. Or to buy lots of tiny cars, Lego pieces, dinosaurs and robots, just to discover that you have a girl. Or to even buy stuff for both scenarios, to be sure. Thankfully, those habits aren’t just gone because you are able to find the gender sooner, but also because modern parents associate less and less certain colors and toys with a gender. Hey, I liked my dinosaurs and my HotWheels as a kid too! Really, if you don’t know the gender of your baby, the only effort involved before you do is to brainstorm for names for both genders.


Being overweight doesn't affect the baby heartbeat

Many moms-to-be are worried that their weight might have a negative impact regarding the fetal heartbeat. In reality, you hear your baby’s heartbeat late anyway, regardless of your weight. This happens at your dating scan between 10 and 13 weeks, but however, don’t worry even if you are at your 16th week of pregnancy and you can’t hear the fetal heartbeat.

Still, being overweight with a BMI (body mass index) over 25 can complicate things when it comes to labor. At a BMI over 35, your doctor might recommend to have during labor your baby’s heartbeat non-stop monitored, as well as your contractions. The doctor or your midwife will attach a sensor to your stomach, connected to a CTG (cardiotocograph). If your tummy weight is over the limit, it’s a bit more difficult to get a proper reading, so a fetal scalp electrode might need to be attached to the baby’s head, so that you can get a good reading of the heartbeat. The clip attached won’t cause any pain or harm neither to you nor to your baby. It will actually allow you to move freely better than you would with a CTG and make labor easier.

You can't find a better sound than the baby heartbeat.
If your partner is a man who is a tough nut, your baby’s heartbeat is probably your best chance at making him cry, because it’s that kind of sound that can warm up even the most curmudgeon person. For many parents-to-be, the moment they hear the thumping is when they realize that humans, after all, are capable of harboring such strong feelings of love, that they surpass everything else.

How did you react when you heard your baby’s heartbeat for the first time?

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