When Can You Hear the Baby's Heartbeat?

Hearing your baby's heartbeat for the first time is an amazing experience that can boost your bonding with your baby. Expectant moms no longer have to wait for their baby to be far enough along for the doctor to use a stethoscope to hear their baby's heartbeat. Not only have there been advances in fetal technologies such as the fetal Doppler and ultrasound machines designed specifically for obstetrics, but there are also apps now available that will let you to hear your baby's heartbeat.

When Can You Hear the Baby's Heartbeat?

In general, you will be able to hear your baby's heartbeat when you are about 8 weeks pregnant using an obstetrics ultrasound. Or you may be able to hear the baby's heartbeat during regular prenatal care visit at 10 weeks, or more commonly at 12 weeks, with a fetal Doppler.

The new fetal care technologies now allow for a much more specific time frame. We now know that your baby's heart begins to beat around 6 weeks after conception. How early you can hear a heartbeat will vary slightly based upon the development of the baby.

There are many factors that can influence the exact answer to "when can you hear the baby's heartbeat?" Factors such as the position of the baby, the position of your uterus, your weight and how accurate the conception date is estimated will all influence whether or not a fetal Doppler or obstetric ultrasound will be able to detect the beat.

What Is a Fetal Doppler?

A Doppler is a machine that issues sound waves towards an object and then measures how the sound waves are returned to detect movement, shape and sound. A fetal Doppler is a specially designed ultrasound unit that uses the reflection of sound waves off the baby's heart to amplify its sound. The technician will use an ultrasound gel, which allows for clear transmission, and move the fetal Doppler over your belly until the baby's heartbeat is detected.

What Does Your Baby's Heartbeat Sound Like?

With the doubt of "when can you hear the baby's heartbeat?" answered, you must also be curious about what your baby's heartbeat sounds like.

According to most moms, baby's heartbeat sounds like galloping horses – a lot of them. The baby's heart rate can range from 120 to 160 beats per minute in the womb. When you hear it for the first time, it can be absolutely beautiful.

Note: Keep in mind that if the heart rate is much faster or slower than the 120 to 160bpm, it may signal a problem and you should contact your physician.

Hear what a baby's heartbeat sounds like from a 15 weeks pregnant mother's personal experience at home: 

Is It Possible for You to Hear Your Baby's Heartbeats at Home?

When can you hear the baby's heartbeat? About 8-12 weeks. With that knowledge, you may want to hear your baby's heartbeat more often, maybe without going to the doctor's office. But is that possible?

You can purchase a fetal Doppler to listen to your baby's heartbeat at home – but that can be tricky as there are so many different factors that can influence how early you can hear the baby's heartbeat. A much safer bet is to try one of these other methods to hear the heartbeat between 18 and 20 weeks. By that time, all of the factors that would prevent you from hearing the heartbeat earlier no longer will be inhibiting the sound.

Ways That You Can Use at Home to Hear Your Baby's Heartbeat

Here are the top 4 safe and proven ways to hear the baby's heartbeat.

  1. A stethoscope – Not just any stethoscope but a high quality run. The better the quality the more likely you are to hear the baby between 18 and 20 weeks.
  2. Pinard Horn – They are usually made of wood and are carved so one end is placed against the belly and the other end against the listener's ear. These are precursors to the modern stethoscope. The only downside to using a Pinard Horn is that the mother can't listen, but your partner would surely love it.
  3. Fetoscope –  If the modern stethoscope got together with the Pinard Horn and had their own offspring it would be the Fetoscope. This combines the best of both worlds, plus the mom-to-be can listen as well. The catch is that how you listen is a bit unusual. Instead of going through the ear, you place the listening end against your forehead. Your bones act to amplify the sound of the baby's heart so you really get to hear and feel their heartbeat.
  4. App – Of course, if you have a need then someone has an app that can do it. Apps like Tiny Beats Baby Heartbeat Monitor can help you to do this. You set your phone to airplane mode so no radio emissions come from your smartphone and use its microphone to detect and amplify the beat. There are even recording options so you can share the sounds of your child with anyone you want. 

What Could It Be If You Cannot Hear Your Baby's Heartbeats?

Now with clear idea of "When can you hear the baby's heartbeat?" you just couldn't wait to have that wonderful experience, but then when you go to see your doctor, you just can't hear your baby's heartbeat. What does this mean? Here're some reasons that could cause the heartbeat to remain undetected. Not all of the reasons are any cause for alarm.

  • Your dates are all wrong – It can be hard to pinpoint the conception date for many people, which means your due date could be off as well. Every week brings enormous developmental changes to your child so if your dates are even a week off, you won't hear that heartbeat when you think you should.
  • Your uterus is tilted – Depending on the degree of tilt, your baby's heart may be too far away to be detected by a Doppler through your belly.
  • The baby is turned – The position of the baby also affects how well you can hear a heartbeat. To detect your baby's heartbeat, the Doppler has to hit the baby in a way that is completely right and proper.
  • Too much fat – If you have gained a lot of weight, or were heavy to begin with, this can interfere with hearing the baby. Subcutaneous fat is stored in the layers of the skin and acts as soundproofing for the womb. The baby must get bigger and the heart stronger to allow the heart to be heard.
  • There might be a miscarriage – This is the one that everyone worries about. Sometimes not being able to hear a heartbeat is an indicator that there has been a miscarriage.