Hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time is a miraculous and exciting moment. Listening to the heartbeat can give doctors important information about your baby's health. As a mom or dad to be, hearing the heartbeat can provide assurance that the baby is growing as they should. There are several ways to listen to the fetal heartbeat. Some of them you can do at home and others will be performed in your doctor's office. Make sure to check with your doctor before trying any at-home methods.

Listening at HomeDownload Article

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    Use a stethoscope. A basic stethoscope is one of the easiest ways to listen to the fetal heartbeat at home. When you are between 18 and 20 weeks pregnant, the heartbeat should be strong enough for you to listen to with this method. Simply place the stethoscope on your belly and listen. You may have to move it around a bit to find the heartbeat. Be patient.
    • Quality does matter, so make sure to purchase a stethoscope from a reputable seller. You can find a wide variety of brands at your local drugstore, and even at a store selling office supplies. Or borrow one from a friend or family member in the medical field if you can.
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    Download an app. New technology can make it very easy to listen to your baby's heartbeat wherever you are. There are several different apps that you can purchase and download to your smartphone to listen to the heartbeat. Some will even allow you to record the sound of the heartbeat so you can play it for your friends and family.[1]
    • These are most reliable later in pregnancy.
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    Get a monitor. You can buy relatively inexpensive fetal heart rate monitors to use at home. This can be a great option if you are prone to stress and are reassured by listening to the heartbeat between visits to your doctor. However, you should be aware that these monitors are not as strong as the ones used by your doctor. Don't expect them to be able to pick up the sound of the heartbeat until you are in at least your fifth month of pregnancy.[2]
    • Make sure to consult your doctor before purchasing an at-home monitor. Once you have one, follow the instructions carefully.
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    Learn the factors that affect the sound. Even when you are using the proper tools, there are many reasons that you may not be able to detect the fetal heartbeat yourself. It's important to know that things such as the baby's position and your weight can impact whether or not you will clearly hear a heartbeat. If you feel there is reason to be concerned, make sure to contact your healthcare provider right away.[3]

Visiting Your DoctorDownload Article

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    Communicate with your doctor. The relationship between you and your doctor or midwife is very important. When you are pregnant, make sure that you are working with a healthcare professional whom you trust. Talk to your doctor about your baby's development, and the best ways for you to hear the heartbeat, both at home and in her office. Choose a doctor who thoroughly and patiently answers all of your questions.[4]
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    Prepare for your visit. Ask your doctor when you can first expect to hear the heartbeat. Most physicians will schedule for a prenatal exam in your ninth or tenth week. Before your visit, make sure to prepare a list of questions to ask your doctor. The moment will be even more special if you understand what is happening and what to expect.[5]
    • This will be an exciting and emotional visit. Ask your partner or a close friend or family member to come with you to the appointment to share in your excitement.
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    Experience the fetal doppler. Talk to your doctor about what type of exam he will use to hear the heartbeat. Typically, you will first hear the sound when your doctor or technician uses a fetal doppler, which uses sound waves to amplify the heartbeat. You will lie down on an exam table and the doctor will move a small probe on the surface of your stomach. This is a painless procedure.[6]
    • While your doctor can usually detect the baby's heartbeat at nine to 10 weeks, sometimes it takes until 12 weeks to easily detect it.
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    Have an ultrasound. If your doctor schedules you for an early ultrasound, you may be able to hear the heartbeat through ultrasound as soon as your eighth week of pregnancy. This is typically performed early if you have some elevated risk factors in your pregnancy. Otherwise, the doctor will typically wait until you are at least 10–12 weeks along. [7]
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    Know the different tools. Be aware that your doctor might be able to use a stethoscope to listen to your baby's heartbeat. However, this instrument is not as powerful as others, so he likely will not do this until you are well into your second trimester. Your doctor or midwife might also use a fetoscope, which is specially designed to listen to fetal heartbeats.[8]

Understanding the Fetal HeartbeatDownload Article

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    Learn about fetal development. When you are pregnant, it is important to know the stages of your baby's development. That way, you will know when you can logically expect to hear the heartbeat, and you can correlate this information with other development milestones. For example, it's good to know that you can expect that your doctor can usually detect the baby's heartbeat by weeks eight, nine, or 10. [9]
    • Remember that conception dates are not always precise. Don't immediately be alarmed if you think your baby hasn't developed fast enough — your conception date may be off by a week or two.
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    Keep the heart healthy. There are many things you can do to help your baby's heart to grow strong and healthy. During your pregnancy, avoid alcohol, smoking, and recreational drugs. You should usually take folic acid supplements to help your baby develop.[10]
    • Eat a healthy diet and avoid caffeine.
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    Know the risks. Even though you will be anxious to hear the fetal heartbeat, make sure that you know there are risks involved when using at home fetal heart monitors. The main drawback is that hearing a healthy heartbeat can lead to a false sense of security in expectant mothers. For example, if you are not feeling "right," but can hear the heartbeat, you might put off going to the doctor. Make sure to listen to your body and contact your doctor at the first sign that something is wrong. Do not rely too heavily on at home monitors.[11] In fact, having a monitor may actually increase your stress level.
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    Bond with your baby. If your doctor agrees, make it a habit to be in tune with your baby's heartbeat. This experience can be a great way for you to bond with your baby bump. To get into a relaxed state, try taking a warm bath and talking to your belly. When you are far along in your pregnancy, the baby will begin to respond to your voice and moods. Your baby can start to hear sounds at around 23 weeks.[12]