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Video:What Does a Fetal Heartbeat Sound Like?

with Dr. Stuart James Fischbein

Fetal heartbeats can be heard after the 10th week of pregnancy. Watch this video from About.com to learn what a healthy fetal heartbeat sounds like and the equipment used to monitor the fetal heart.See Transcript

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Transcript:What Does a Fetal Heartbeat Sound Like?

Hello I’m Dr. Stuart James Fischbein. I’m a fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. You can find more information about me at www.BirthingInsticts.com. I’m here on behalf of About.com today to discuss what a fetal heartbeat sounds like.

When Can You Hear the Fetal Heartbeat?

When you go to the doctor to visit, from the point beyond 10 weeks until the time your baby delivers, you’ll have people wanting to listen to your baby’s heartbeat. And the question is, what are they listening for? Well they’re listening for the rhythm of the heart, and the rate of the heart. They also want to early on make sure there is one heartbeat and not two.

Signs of a Healthy Fetal Heartbeat

The normal rhythm of the heartbeat is about 120 to 160 beats per minute, which is a lot faster obviously than ours and that’s because babies have a very high metabolic rate, they have a lot of growing to do. Sometimes you’ll hear a heart beat a little bit slower, sometimes you might hear a heart beat that goes much faster. These can be very normal and are not necessarily signs of a problem. When the baby is moving a lot, the baby’s heart rate might go up to as high as 180, 190. If that happens and the baby’s heart rate comes right back down again that’s perfectly fine. That’s like if you or I were to run up stairs.

Fetal Heartbeat Should Have A Regular Rhythm

We also listen to the baby’s rhythm – we want to make sure that the baby has a regular rhythm. Heartbeats like yours and mine should be beating regularly; there should be no skipped beats or irregular rhythms. When there is an irregular rhythm, again early on this can be a normal finding because babies electrical systems in their heart are just developing and so sometimes you’ll hear what’s called an arrhythmia and your doctor may want to do more testing and may want you to come back in a couple of days to see if it’s still there or may do an ultrasound to look at the baby’s well being.

But generally these things are resolved and usually even when you hear them in labor by the time the baby’s born and they do the well newborn exam, the heart beat is back to its regular rate and rhythm.

Equipment for Hearing the Fetal Heartbeat

The way we listen to a heartbeat is by using some equipment. I have in front of me here something that used to be used prior to the electronic age. This is called a Fetal Stethoscope. It uses what’s called bone conduction - in other words, you put this on your head and you actually put this on your forehead, and you put your head on a woman’s belly and you listen. This thing is for some museums, but some women who don’t want to use a Doppler Ultrasound can still have their doctor use this. It’s fine and they do have longer ones where you can actually hear your own baby.

Modern obstetrics now we tend to use what’s called a Fetal Doppler which uses sound waves bouncing off the baby that then come back and are picked up by this machine - you probably all recognize such a thing. It’s very commonly used. Ultrasound does the same thing except of course with this one there is no picture.

Once again this is Stuart James Fischbein. Thank you so much for watching. If you want more information you can find us online at About.com.

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