The moment your baby’s heartbeat is heard, it will change your life forever. It’s the first sign that your child is alive, and you’ll hear it well before you feel the first kick in your stomach. Not only is a heartbeat a good sign that your baby is healthy, it also has many different applications in the medical field. A baby’s heartbeat can be used to find abnormalities in the child, and can also be used determine how far along you are in your pregnancy.
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Fetal Heart Rate: What is the Normal Heart Rate?
The normal beats per minute (BPM) occurs in the utero period of pregnancy. In a healthy, normal child, you can expect the heart rate to be 120 to 160 beats per minute (bpm). But you’ll also find that these rates change depending on how many weeks you’ve been pregnant.
Doctors know that myocardium begins approximately three weeks after conception. Technically, your child’s heart begins to beat when they he or she is just three weeks into the development cycle, but it’s so low that it can’t be picked up on a sonogram.
Let’s take a look at when you can expect to have a sonogram done to hear your baby’s heartbeat, and what you can expect at varying weeks in your pregnancy.
Fetal Heart Rate by Weeks
Very few women will be able to have sonographic done to find the fetal heart rate (FHR) at five weeks. In fact, you’ll find that the fetal heart rate at six weeks is very close to the five-week range.
The average at 5- 6 weeks is 110 bpm.
Your baby is still growing, and this rate will change rapidly. A normal fetal heart rate is not experienced until very late term. Let’s a look at the rates at different weeks, and what you can expect your child’s bpm to be.
- Fetal Heart Rate at 7, 8, 9, 10 Weeks: During this time, your child’s heart rate will be increasing dramatically. This isn’t a cause for concern, and is actually a sign that everything is perfectly normal. Starting from the 110 bpm at six weeks, the heart rate will increase during the seventh week and reach levels of 170 bpm by weeks 9 – 10. You can expect this heart rate to persist for the next four weeks.
- FHR at 11, 12, 13, 14 Weeks: The 14-week mark is when the heart rate will start declining from 170 bps. You can expect bpm to be 150 at 14 weeks.
- FHR at 20 Weeks: Just 5 months into your pregnancy, your baby’s bpm will decline even further down to 140.
Many moms worry because FHR levels aren’t always precise. Every child is different, and you may find that there’s a difference of 5- 15 bpm during your pregnancy. This isn’t a major concern, and is often accepted by doctors as a natural occurrence.
You’ll find that most doctors will be concerned if the heart rate begins to exceed these ranges. In this case, your doctor will discuss your best options at this time and guide you through the process.
There’s also the option of buying your own heart rate monitor – which many mothers do.
Should You Have a Fetal Heart Rate Monitor?
FHR monitors are inexpensive and perfect for mothers that have a hard time sleeping at night, not knowing if their child is okay. Fetal heart rate monitors are able to help you listen to your baby’s heartbeat at all times.
While comforting, these monitors are only effective to a point.
If you’re very early on in your pregnancy, these “dopplers” will barely be able to a pick up on your baby’s heartbeat. In truth, many hospital-grade sonograms are not able to detect a heartbeat until the six-week period or later.
And you can’t expect these at-home models to be as effective as hospital-grade equipment.
But you should purchase one of these heart rate monitors if you fall into one of the following categories:
- You’re experiencing pregnancy complications and want to monitor your child’s heart rate.
- You’ve had difficulty giving birth before, and want a way to alert your doctor of a potential problem.
- You have a hard time sleeping at night not knowing if your child is safe.
Many mothers have found that an FHR monitor allows them to sleep better at night. Oftentimes, mothers will become so used to these monitors they use it as a way to meditate themselves sleep.
Since these monitors are completely safe, you never have to worry about them harming your baby, or you. These monitors are simply an added bonus for any mother, and something that’s recommended for first-time mothers who are so eager to have their first child.
Gender Predictor Test? The Truth about Fetal Heart Rate and Gender
If you’ve yet to have your doctor tell you the gender of your baby, many women will try to use the FHR as a baby gender predictor. Let’s discuss how a gender predictor test is conducted using your baby’s heartbeat.
The baby is inside of a gestational sac, and the heart rate of the baby is used in the following ways:
- If the heart rate is 140 bpm or higher, the baby is a girl.
- If the heart rate lower than 140 bpm, you are carrying a boy.
For decades, this was the go-to boy or girl predictor. Many women around the world used this method to predict the sex of their baby. And, like with any other method, there’s a 50-50 chance that the prediction is right.
It’s very hard to truly consider a baby heart rate for a boy or girl when conducting any gender test.
As we discussed earlier, the heart rate of the child will be elevated during the early pregnancy, which would indicate that every baby is a girl. But this rate naturally comes down as pregnancy continues, and a rate of 130 ppm is not uncommon later on.
Logic alone isn’t enough to prove that this method doesn’t work. A medical study was conducted in 2006 to prove that the FHR rate during the first trimester is not significantly different between female or male babies. If you’re using this method during the first trimester, there’s a good chance that your prediction will be wrong.
Another study was conducted in the 1980s that looked at over 10,000 FHR, and found that embryonic heart rate does not help predict the gender of the baby.
All research points out a single fact – there is no correlation between baby heartbeats and gender.
The study did find that heart rates do vary with abnormal cardiac development, which is still being studied today. It’s safe to say that cardiac development even as young as nine weeks may be able to signal doctors and mothers that there’s an issue with the baby. What can be done? Vitamins and medications may be given to the mother in an attempt to help correct this abnormal development.
Listening to your baby’s heart rate for the first time is one of the most exciting times in your life. This is the first time that you’ll see a visual display of your baby’s heart beating, and technology allows us to hear this heartbeat as soon as 5 to 6 weeks after conception. While an FHR cannot help you predict your baby’s gender, it can help for early detection of cardiac development abnormalities that may occur.