When you’re pregnant, you’re going through a lot of interesting and unique emotions you’ve never felt before. One of the most powerful of these is the desire to hear your child’s heartbeat. Your partner may not understand this need, but it is one that a majority of expecting mothers feel.
As a result, a growing number of them are purchasing stethoscopes which they can use to listen to their baby’s heartbeat. Is this a good idea and should it be done? After all, is it even possible to hear an unborn baby’s heartbeat with a stethoscope through your belly and all of that fluid?
The Short Answer: Absolutely!
Listening to you baby’s heart with a stethoscope is not only possible, it’s highly recommended for nervous expecting mothers. It can serve as a way of gauging your baby’s health and even making a connection with them that may be difficult for some to feel until their child is born. Wanting to hear their heartbeat is a totally healthy and natural thing to do.
The type of stethoscope doesn’t matter much. You can find a heartbeat using an inexpensive stethoscope with limited uses or one that is more expensive and which has a variety of alternative use options.
It all depends on how much you want to spend, how often you plan on listening to the heartbeat, and what other uses you may get out of it after your baby is born.
The nice thing about a stethoscope is that it can be stored for years without suffering any real damage. As a result, you can reuse it when you’re expecting another child.
By then, you’ll know a lot more about the proper time to listen to your child’s heart, making this process go a little more smoothly for you.
The Long Answer: It Depends On The Time You Listen
While it’s totally possible to listen to your child’s heartbeat with a stethoscope, it’s typically only possible after about 18-20 weeks of development in your womb.
This doesn’t mean that your child’s heart won’t be beating: it should start beating as early as week 10 of your pregnancy. However, you won’t be able to detect the heartbeat without an ultrasound until much later.
That’s why we’ve broken down the development of your child from the earliest formation of their heart all the way up to when you can finally listen to it on a stethoscope. This helps you understand the ways your child is changing in your body, giving you an insight into their growth. It also helps you pin-point the moment you should purchase a stethoscope.
From 6-10 Weeks
When your baby is six weeks old, they will look a bit like a tadpole and will have a large bulge near their heart. The heartbeat will first be detectable at this point, but not with a stethoscope: it will take a vaginal ultrasound to hear it.
As the baby grows during these early weeks, it still start to develop in complex ways. The brain will be forming rapidly in the seventh week, while the limbs will begin the earliest stages of their formation. At eight weeks, the baby is officially known as a “fetus,” and its legs should be long and have cartilage.
When they reach nine weeks, they should be an inch or two long with larger eyes, a mouth, tongue, and even tiny little tastebuds. When your child is 10 weeks old, its heart will be fully developed and will be beating at 180 beats per minute.
That’s a fast, though typical, rate for the fetus. You still won’t be able to hear it with a stethoscope, but it will be more noticeable with an ultrasound.
From 11-17 Weeks
With the heart fully formed, your child will begin developing rapidly. The face bones will form and the ears will begin looking fuller. At 12 weeks, the fetus is fully formed, including the sex organs: from here, its all a matter of continual growing and development.
From week 14 to week 16, your baby’s organs will begin to work, including the stomach and the kidneys. At this point, their eyes will become sensitive to light and their ears will finally pick up sounds, including the soothing sound of your heartbeat.
Soon they’ll start flexing their muscles and kicking their limbs about, even swimming around inside of you. They’re in pretty great shape around now, and will be growing more quickly every day.
The heart should still be easily detectable with the ultrasound, but will soon be detectable with a stethoscope.
From 18-22 Weeks
Here comes the most exciting part of any pregnancy: the period during which you can finally hear their heartbeat with a stethoscope! It will be faint during week 18 (during which their fingers will start to become more personalized), but by week 20, you should have no trouble picking it up.
During this period, they will become very active in your body. You may even feel them react to loud noises! What is especially cool is that they’ll be practicing breathing and other important skills.
Your baby is learning how to be a fully-functioning human outside of your womb, and will continue to practice its skills until it is born.
Listening To The Heartbeat
Once your child has reached the 20 week plateau, it’s time to purchase a stethoscope and listen for their heartbeat. Again, the type of stethoscope doesn’t matter much: you can get a result buying the cheapest one you can find.
That said, more expensive ones might be a little more accurate, especially if your baby’s heartbeat is hard to find or if they like to move around a lot in your womb.
Finding your baby’s heartbeat with a stethoscope is a very simple process, one that you can do on your own. While your partner can help you through this process, it is often an intimate one that mothers want to do on their own.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help your partner listen to your baby’s hearbeat. After all, it should be the pride and joy of both of you, and letting them listen helps them make a stronger connection.
Step One: Relaxing In A Quiet Room
Lie down on your back in a room that is quiet, relaxing, and which has a door you can lock. This makes it easier for you to separate yourself from the loud outside world. Try to do this when you’re at home alone, to avoid excessive noise that may make the heart hard to hear.
Step Two: Finding Your Baby’s Back
When listening to your baby’s heartbeat, you’re going to need to find their back. Listening through their chest is difficult, as it is not likely to be pressed up against your womb like the back.
Carefully rub your stomach (under your clothes) to find a smooth and hard area that pokes sharply against your skin. This is likely your baby’s back and is where you need to place the stethoscope.
Step Three: Putting On The Stethoscope
Once you’ve found the back, put the ear buds of the stethoscope in your ears. Take the listening device and breathe on it several times to warm it up and make it more comfortable against your skin
Press it gently against your chest at the point where you located the baby’s back. Press it firmly, but not too hard, against your stomach for the best results. Hold it still as you listen to avoid ambient noises.
Step Four: Listening Carefully
Wait a few minutes and listen very carefully. If you hear a slow and steady heartbeat, you’ve discovered your own. Your baby’s should sound very quick: it is often compared to the sound of galloping horses.
Carefully move the listening device over your child’s back until you hear the loud thud of its heart. This moment is an exhilarating one for any mother, especially when it’s done the first time.
Step Five (If Necessary): Wait And Adjust
If you can’t hear your child’s heartbeat, don’t panic. They may have shifted position while you put on the stethoscope and made it impossible to locate their back. You may have even improperly identified the back.
Check your stomach again for the baby’s back and re-position the stethoscope to that location. If you still can’t hear the heartbeat, there’s a good chance they moved away from your womb wall. Try again later.
Talk To Your Doctor About Any Serious Concerns
Failure to find your baby’s heartbeat after multiple attempts may be a problem, which is why you should reach out to your doctor as soon as possible. They can help show you how to use your stethoscope properly and locate your baby’s heartbeat for you.
In this way, you can learn how to properly use your stethoscope and get the reassurance that your baby is healthy inside of your womb. However, if you do detect your child’s heartbeat and notice it is too fast or too slow, you should also call a professional.
Thankfully, they are likely to find a way to manage your baby’s heartbeat problems and make them healthy again. So get out your stethoscope and start practicing today!