For many women, the beat of their baby’s heart will sound similar to the thunder created by galloping horses and hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the very first time can be incredibly moving.

Detecting a normal heartbeat in a fetus is simply one indication of the overall health during pregnancy. Unborn babies will have a heartbeat early in the pregnancy, while the fetus remains within the embryonic stage of development. The answer to the question "when does a baby get a heartbeat?" is not so simple, however, as the doctor will be able to detect it at different times in different pregnancies. This variation in the answer is mostly due to embryo size.

When Does a Fetus Have a Heartbeat?

If you are wondering, when does a fetus have a heartbeat? Remember that you might be able to see and hear your baby’s fetal heartbeat at around 8 weeks into your pregnancy during an early ultrasound. The actual heartbeat will begin around 6 weeks along.

If you don’t have an early ultrasound, you probably have to wait to hear your baby’s heartbeat at a prenatal care visit via a Fetal Doppler. Your caregiver will usually be able to find the heartbeat with this method around 12 weeks, but in some cases they will do so at 10 weeks. Although the heartbeat usually begins at around the same time, whether or not your doctor can pick it up will depend on where your baby is in your uterus, how much you weigh, and whether your due date is accurate.

What Is a Fetal Doppler?

The Fetal Doppler is the most common methods of answering, when does a fetus have a heartbeat? This handheld ultrasound device makes it easy for your doctor or caregiver to find the fetal heartbeat. Your doctor will cover the Doppler using ultrasound gel before moving it on your belly, searching for a location where he detects the heartbeat.

This machine sends and then receives the sound waves which your baby’s heart reflects. Then it will process and amplify these sound waves to let you hear your baby’s heartbeat.

Watch the video below to hear how the fetal heartbeat sounds via Fetal Doppler:

What Is a Normal Fetal Heartbeat Rate?

Finding out when a fetus has a heartbeat is only part of the question; many parents-to-be also want to know what it should sound like.

When your baby is 6 weeks, the heart will be beating 80 times per minute. There are four hollow chambers in his heart and each contains an opening in one direction to let blood enter or leave. By around 8 weeks, the heart will beat 150 times a minute, a rate nearly twice as quick as in adults.

Because of the constant growth, it is very likely that you can first hear your baby’s heartbeat at week 9 or 10 of your pregnancy. At this point, the heart rate will already be around 170 beats a minute, but it will slow down shortly. It is at this point that your doctor will use the Fetal Doppler.

Your doctor will take time at every prenatal visit to check your baby’s heartbeat. It is possible to rent or buy a fetal Doppler to hear the heartbeat yourself. Despite wanting to know when a fetus has a heartbeat, however, experts don’t usually recommend getting your own machine since it takes a great deal of practice and training to identify your baby’s heartbeat.

What to Do If My Baby Doesn't Have a Heartbeat?

If for some reason your baby doesn’t have a heartbeat, your doctor will need to do a second ultrasound and also verify measurements. Your doctor will check that your baby’s length from crown to rump matches that of 7 weeks. In cases where the measurement is less than this (6 weeks or under), you simply need to wait for a week or two before checking your baby’s growth and confirming that there is a heartbeat.

If, however, your measurements match those of a 7-week pregnancy and your doctor can’t detect a heartbeat at two different ultrasounds, then you have miscarried. In this case, you will work with your OB to select one of the following options: perform a D&C, take Cytotec to speed up the miscarriage, or wait for the miscarriage to occur naturally.

In some cases, a healthy embryo may still not show their heartbeat when 7 weeks along if the distance from rump to crown is under 5 mm. It is also possible that a tipped uterus or large abdomen can interfere with heartbeat detection, as can miscalculating the last menstrual period.

Misconceptions of Pregnancy Weeks

During considerations of "when does a fetus have a heartbeat?" it is important to be clear about pregnancy weeks. Doctors will measure the length of pregnancy starting on the very first day of the last menstrual period, despite conception not usually occurring until two weeks later. That means that if your doctor says your baby is a certain number of weeks old, your unborn baby is actually two weeks younger than this.

How to Keep the Baby Heart Healthy?

During your baby’s time in the womb, a great deal develops and changes. There are plenty of factors you can’t control which may impact your baby’s heart development, including genetic or chromosomal abnormalities, but there are also things you can do to keep your baby’s heart as healthy as it can be:

  • Try taking folic acid both before conception and during your pregnancy. This seems to help prevent the occurrence of congenital heart disease.

  • Women who smoke should quit immediately. Maternal smoking within the first trimester may be responsible for 2 percent of heart defects, such as valve and vessel abnormalities.

  • Women with gestational diabetes or type II diabetes should take care to control their blood sugar throughout pregnancy. This is crucial as diabetes has been linked to a higher risk of developing heart defects.

  • Don’t use the acne medication Accutane during pregnancy as it can lead to fetal heart defects.


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