Woman holding a fetal doppler at home

Let’s explore the fetal heartbeat by week chart. We also answer some of the commonly asked questions when it comes to your baby's heartbeat.

The first time you hear your baby’s heartbeat is a magical moment, whether you are a first-time parent or not.

But listening to a baby’s heartbeat is not just for parents to be excited over. It’s also essential for determining the baby’s health. A fetal heartbeat can reveal crucial information about your baby.

Keep reading to find out more about the fetal heartbeat by week chart for your baby.

Fetal Heart Monitoring

Fetal heart monitoring refers to measuring a fetus's heart rate and rhythm to ensure things are on track for a healthy pregnancy. Your doctor will record your baby’s heartbeat to see how they’re development is tracking.

Your baby’s average heart rate will vary based on fetal age and the conditions inside the uterus.

There are two fetal heart monitoring methods: external fetal heart monitoring and internal fetal heart monitoring.

External fetal monitoring is done using a device that detects a baby’s heartbeat through the mother’s abdomen. The most common device used for external fetal heart monitoring is a fetal doppler. This device detects and records the rate and rhythm of the baby’s heartbeat.

Internal fetal monitoring uses an electrode wire from the cervix to the baby’s head to monitor its heartbeat. This method is only done when the fluid-filled amniotic sac has broken. At this point, the cervix is open to allow the wire to enter the uterus.

Normal Fetal Heart Beat Chart by Week

Your baby's heartbeat will keep changing week by week, so it's essential to know the correct heart rate range depending on what week you are on.

The fetal heart rate starts at a slower rate but keeps increasing every day until stabilising at the 12th week. The average heart rate upon stabilisation is 120 to 160 beats per minute (bpm.)

Fetal heartbeat by week chart

Tracking a baby’s heart rate helps doctors determine the fetus’s age and growth. The general fetal age by weeks can be tracked by the heart rates below:

fetal heartbeat by week chart

What is the normal fetal heart rate?

A baby's heart starts beating at five weeks. At this stage, the heartbeat would be described as galloping. It is faster than the average adult's heart rate. That said, your baby’s heart rate changes gradually throughout pregnancy. In the early stages of pregnancy, the fetal heart rate is between 110 to 180 beats per minute (bpm.)

Note that it is best to consult your doctor on the heart rate of your baby. If you feel anything is wrong, talk to your doctor.

When will the heartbeat start for a baby?

A baby’s heart will start beating at 5 to 6 weeks of pregnancy. This is around the time that the fetus begins to form from the embryo. A vaginal ultrasound will detect the fetus inside your womb at this stage.

From 6 to 7 weeks, your doctor can assess your baby's heartbeat to understand your pregnancy better.

If you plan to use fetal heart monitor dopplers to listen to your baby's heartbeat, then you may have to wait from weeks 9 to 28 weeks to hear a clear heartbeat.

Can I increase the fetal heart rate?

A normal fetal heart will beat at 110 to 160 bpm. Your baby's heart may beat at a rate of fewer than 110 beats per minute. An ultrasound exam by your doctor, midwife or OB-GYN will reveal more information about this.

A slow heart rate may quicken on its own. If you feel you need help increasing your baby's heartbeat, talk to your doctor.

Note that there is no scientific evidence to show that eating certain foods will increase the low fetal heart rate in the early pregnancy stages. You will have to talk to your doctor before making any dietary changes.

Does the heart rate vary for boys and girls?

No. The heart rate is not different in boys and girls. You might have heard the old wives tale that a heart rate over 140 bpm predicts a girl, and one lower than 140 bpm indicates a boy. There is no scientific basis for this fact.

You will start to clearly hear your baby's heartbeat at six weeks of pregnancy. Your baby hasn't developed enough to look like the fetus pictures you might have seen online at this stage. They look like a tadpole, better known as the fetal pole, and you won’t be able to know the gender yet.

The easiest way to find out the sex of your baby is via ultrasound. Your doctor will perform an ultrasound on you at 18 to 20 weeks. They will determine the sex of your baby by looking at the genitals on the baby’s image.

Is 170 bpm too high for a fetus?

Answering this question is tricky, as it depends on which stage of gestation your baby is in to know what a higher heart rate is.

When you are 9 to 10 weeks pregnant, your baby's heartbeat could average 175 bpm. At other stages, the baby's heartbeat could reduce.

If you have any concerns about your baby’s heart rate, talk to your doctor immediately. Please note that only your doctor can tell you what is expected and what is not for your baby.

 Babyheart fetal doppler on a bed

How to monitor fetal heartbeat at home:

There are quite a few ways you can monitor your baby's heartbeat while at home. However, not all of them are as accurate as going to your doctor to get an ultrasound.

Here are some devices that you can use at home to listen to your baby’s heartbeat:

  • Stethoscope: A stethoscope will detect your baby's heartbeat at 18 to 20 weeks.
  • Fetal doppler: This is a device that allows you to listen to your baby's heartbeat by sending soundwaves through the mother's belly to the baby. A fetal doppler can be used as early as nine weeks to listen to your baby's heartbeat.

Also, note that you should not substitute at-home fetal monitoring with a real doctor’s appointment.

Final Thoughts

If you have any questions or concerns about the fetal heartbeat by week chart, talk to your doctor or OB-GYN. And remember that an at-home fetal doppler shouldn’t replace the appointments you have with medical professionals throughout your pregnancy. A fetal doppler is a tool for you to connect with your baby.

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