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Normal Fetal Heart Rate: Is Your Baby on Track?

There is nothing quite like hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the very first time — it’s one of those moments that brings you to tears! But once that tender moment passes and your midwife or doctor announces the heart rate, you may be thinking “is that a normal fetal heart rate?”

To put your mind at ease, we’ll break it all down for you, including:

  • When you can hear baby’s heartbeat for the first time
  • The range of a normal fetal heart rate
  • The different ways to measure baby’s heart rate
  • Plus, whether baby’s heart rate can predict sex

When Can You Hear Baby’s Heartbeat for the First Time?

A baby’s heart starts to beat around 6 weeks.

  • If you opt for an early ultrasound, you may get to hear baby’s heartbeat, or even see it beating on the monitor, as early as 6 weeks.
  • Otherwise, you’ll probably hear baby’s heartbeat via a doppler at your first prenatal visit somewhere between 8 to 12 weeks, sometimes even later.
  • Mamas who opt to limit, or forgo, ultrasounds may not hear baby’s heart beat until closer to 20 weeks when it’s strong enough to hear with a fetoscope. (More on the difference between a doppler and a fetoscope below!)

What’s a Normal Fetal Heart Rate?

A normal fetal heart is between 120 and 160 beats per minute. (source) This is a lot faster than most parents expect to hear. In fact, it’s almost twice that of an adult heartbeat.

But it’s important to note that the heart rate can, and does, change depending on the gestational age of the baby. When the heart is first beating and still developing, it is normal for the fetal heart rate to start out at a much slower rate, increasing daily, until it starts to stabilize and beat within the expected range around the 12th week of pregnancy.

Take a peek at this fetal heart rate chart to get an idea of how it changes week to week:

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