Wanda F Steele, RN
How early can you hear your baby's heartbeat? - Beth, Florida
The expert answers
How early you can hear the baby's heartbeat is dependent on many different factors. We expect to be able to hear the baby with an amplified doppler device by about 12 weeks of gestation (see what your baby looks like at week 12 here) -- BUT there are many variables to be taken into consideration.
One of the reasons that we may not be able to hear the baby at that point is the position of the uterus or the position of the baby within the uterus.
Another reason is that many mothers have an additional layer of fat just above the pubic bone, and this is the area we listen through when we are looking for a very small baby at around 12 weeks. Sometimes it can be difficult to locate the baby or hear the fetal heartbeat when you are listening through a little extra padding. In addition, the position of the placentamay interfere with the audio when checking the fHR (fetal heart rate).
If using only a traditional stethoscope, you will need to wait until around week 20 to be able to hear the baby's heartbeat -- and still it might be very difficult to find. You will also need to distinguish between the fetus' rapid heartbeat and mom's much slower rhythm.
If there is any question about the well-being of the baby, we usually do a quick ultrasound in our office to reassure us and the mother that the baby is okay. That way we can actually seethe heart beating, and we don't worry about hearing it until the next visit. With each week that passes, your baby's heartbeat should be easier to find.
Good luck :)
Find out more about your baby's development:
- Is your uterus measuring small for dates?
- How fast is your baby's heart beating?
- Will the heartrate tell you baby's gender?