Hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time is one of the most emotional moments of pregnancy for most parents. It is a magical moment that is generally experienced with great enthusiasm as it confirms that the baby is growing healthy and strong. That’s why many parents look forward to the first ultrasound to see their little one and hear his heartbeat.
However, it is not always possible at first, sometimes it is necessary to wait a little longer before listening to the baby’s heart. We explain when the baby’s heart begins to beat and what are the best times to listen to her heartbeat.
The growth of the baby’s heart during pregnancy
Did you know that the heart is the first organ that begins to function in the baby’s body? Like the rest of the organs, it begins to form from the moment of conception. During the first few days, the mesoderm of the cardiac area is formed, which quickly gives rise to two symmetrical structures that are hollowed out to form the two tubes of the endocardium. By day 21 of embryonic development, these tubes fuse to form the primitive heart tube.
From day 22 of intrauterine life, the primitive heart tube continues to develop and gives rise to 5 fundamental parts of the heart: the primitive atrium, the primitive ventricle, the sinus venosus, the bulbus cordis and the truncus arteriosus. By day 28 of gestation, the atrioventricular canal divides, forming the right and left sides of the heart. And, in the second month of pregnancy , the heart already has four chambers and beats at a rate of 180 beats per minute.
The fetal heartbeat: The best times to listen to the baby’s heart
Until very recently it was thought that the baby’s heart did not start working until after the fifth week of gestation, but a recent study carried out at the University of Oxford in conjunction with other universities has shown that this moment actually takes place much earlier. . According to these researchers, the baby’s first heartbeat occurs just 16 days after conception.
The problem is that, at this time, the beat is still very weak and although it is possible to hear it in some cases, the most common is that it cannot be perceived. Instead, a little later, from the sixth week of gestation, the heartbeat is already audible enough and can be heard through Doppler ultrasound, a technique designed to amplify the sounds that are emitted inside the womb.
From the 9th or 12th week of pregnancy it is already possible to listen to the baby’s heart through a traditional ultrasound and, by the 18th or 20th week, it can be perceived without much effort with a simple stethoscope. At this time, the fetal heart rate has dropped slightly, although it usually ranges between 110 and 160 beats per minute and tends to be quite irregular, except during the baby’s sleep.
It is worth noting that, sometimes, it is possible to confuse the baby’s heartbeat with that of the mother. An easy way to learn to identify them is to pay attention to your heart rate. In the case of babies, having a much higher heart rate, their heart beats much faster than their mother’s heart.
As the pregnancy progresses, many women often feel their baby’s heart through small beats. It is a precious experience, which usually comes in those moments when the mother is relaxed and calm. In these cases, by passing your hand over your belly it is possible not only to notice the baby’s movements but also to feel a kind of sound similar to the pulse that is nothing more than the baby’s heartbeat.
Why can’t I hear my baby’s heart beat?
Sometimes hearing the baby’s heartbeat takes longer than expected without this meaning there is a problem with the pregnancy. Factors such as the mother having too thick a layer of abdominal fat or the baby being in a difficult position are the most common causes. However, while this often confuses parents, if the rest of the pregnancy indicators are going from strength to strength, there’s really nothing to worry about.
In some cases, it is also possible that the gestation date has been miscalculated and the baby is actually at a lower stage of development. In this type of situation, taking measurements of the fetus through an ultrasound can help determine the exact gestational age. If the time of pregnancy is shorter than expected, you will probably have to wait a few more weeks before hearing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time.
Listen to the baby’s heartbeat at home
At present it is not necessary to go to the appointment with the gynecologist to listen to the baby’s heartbeat since there are home ultrasound equipment that allow to capture this sound. These are fetal heartbeat detectors that allow you to listen to the baby’s heart in real time in a simple and fast way. A tool that can be useful so that the baby’s grandparents, siblings or uncles can also be part of this experience.
However, it is important to use this type of device wisely. There is no evidence that this type of equipment affects the normal development of pregnancy, but it is known that the use of ultrasound can slightly heat the tissues and, in some cases, promote the appearance of cavitations, that is, the presence of small bubbles in the tissues. The effects of these reactions on fetal development are unknown, so experts recommend minimizing the use of home ultrasound equipment and following all recommendations when using it.