You may be able to hear — and see — your baby’s heart beat for the first time when you’re about 8 weeks pregnant if you have an early ultrasound exam. (The baby’s heart starts to beat at around 6 weeks.)
Otherwise, you’ll probably hear it with a fetal Doppler at a regular prenatal care visit. Your caregiver may be able to find it with the Doppler as early as 10 weeks, but it’s more common to hear it at 12 weeks. How early the sound can be picked up depends on your baby’s position in your uterus, your weight, and the accuracy of your due date.
The fetal Doppler is a handheld ultrasound device that your caregiver can use to find your baby’s heartbeat. She’ll cover it with ultrasound gel and move it around on your belly until she finds a spot where the heartbeat can be detected.
The Doppler sends and receives sound waves that are reflected off your baby’s heart. It then processes and amplifies them so you can hear the heartbeat.
Many women say that the beating of their baby’s tiny heart sounds like the thunder of galloping horses. Hearing it for the first time can be very moving.
The heart rate of a healthy baby in the womb ranges from about 120 to 160 beats per minute. A heartbeat that’s much faster or slower than that may signal a problem.
Checking your baby’s heartbeat will become a regular part of every prenatal visit. You can also rent or buy a Doppler for homeuse, but some experts caution against this because it takes considerable training and practice to find and correctly identify a baby’s heartbeat.