Hearing Your Babyâ€™s Heartbeat
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Hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time can be a wonderfully moving experience, and one you will not grow tired of throughout your pregnancy. It offers reassurance that all is going well and for many a realisation that there really is a little person growing in there.
 Hearing the heartbeat for the first time
Your baby’s heart starts beating at around 22 days after conception, during Week 5 of pregnancy, although at this stage it is much too small to hear, even with amplification. The first time you hear your baby’s heartbeat will either be at your first ultrasound, where you will also see that tiny embryonic heart beating, or at a pre-natal appointment around Week 9 or 10, where your doctor will try to find the heartbeat with a Doppler device. For many parents this is an experience they will never forget and can be quite overwhelming. In a trimester of mood swings, morning sickness and exhaustion it can often be the first tangible positive sign that your baby is coming.
 Doppler and stethoscope
The Doppler device works by bouncing harmless sound waves off the baby’s heart: as the heart is moving, the sound waves change and it registers the rate at which the heart is beating. Early in pregnancy the device has to be placed at exactly the right angle to register the heart beat, but from 12 weeks onwards it becomes easier as the heart grows and the movement is more definite. Sometimes the device picks up the mother’s heart rate through the placenta, but as the mother’s pulse should be under 100 and the baby’s over 120, it should be easy enough to tell if this has happened.
From around 20 weeks onwards it is possible to hear baby’s heart without Doppler amplification and your doctor may start to use a stethoscope to listen to it. Either a special stethoscope called a fetoscope, or the concave part of a normal stethoscope is used. It is easiest to find through baby’s back, which often feels hard against your uterus.
 Foetal heart monitors
It is now possible to buy foetal heart monitors that you can use at home. These are normally amplifying devices that resemble a personal stereo, with a large round microphone on the back. You place this on your belly and move it around until you hear the baby’s heartbeat, listening to it using headphones. While the devices are not normally recommended for use until the third trimester because the heartbeat is too difficult to find, many women find that even at the very end of their pregnancy it is still difficult to discern, especially with all the other noises going on in there: the kicks, turns, and your own heartbeat! Later in pregnancy it might also be possible for the father to hear the baby’s heartbeat by putting his ear to your belly... obviously this is something that you cannot do yourself, unless you are a contortionist.
As long as you bear in mind that you may not hear anything and be aware that you may well be disapppointed, ntrying to listen to your baby’s heartbeat is completely harmless and fun. While later in pregnancy you have the baby’s movement to reassure you everything is okay, hearing that little drumbeat is an experience you will never grow tired of.
 Gender and heart rate
A normal foetal heart rate is between 120 and 160 bpm. There are old wives’ tales that claim a pulse of 140 and less predicts the baby will be a boy and over 140 means a girl is on her way. However, this should be taken as nothing more than a bit of fun: as with all methods, this is only accurate 50% of the time!