How the fetal heart rate changes

The fetal heart rate is the rate at which the heart of an unborn baby beats while still in the mother's womb. The fetal heart rate is also called the baby heart rate. The fetal heart beat needs to be observed to determine the rate at which the heart is beating. To do this, one needs an observation tool called a fetal doppler. A fetal doppler is an electronic device that monitors and observes the heartbeat of a baby so as to determine its heart rate.

The fetal heart rate changes in the course of the pregnancy. The heart of the unborn baby will therefore beat at different rates depending on the stage of the pregnancy. The heart of the baby begins to beat about five weeks after conception. The fetal heart rate at this time ranges from 80 beats per minute to 85 beats per minute (80 to 85 BPM). There is a recorded increase in the rate at which the baby's heart will beat for this first month. This increase is to the tune of three heartbeats each given day.

The increase in the fetal heart rate is very precise and reliable. A result of this fact is that by determining the rate at which the baby's heart is beating, it is possible to accurately determine the age of the baby. You will however require the aid of a fetal doppler to do this. The fetal heart rate has been a reliable indicator that the pregnancy is taking place normally without any complications. Research indicates that miscarriages have happened in a little less than 1% of cases where the baby's heartbeat was recorded. A result of this is that most parents place a great deal of reliance, comfort and a sense of wellbeing if they witness the baby's heart beating.

As early as the 9th week after conception, a fetal heart rate will be approximately 175 beats per minute. This marks the point at which the baby's heart rate starts a gradual decline. This decrease of the heart rate will continue until the pregnancy is in its middle stages and settle at around 120 beats per minute to 180 beats per minute. This is a very wide range that researches attribute to different experiences in the pregnancy term. There is also a further decrease in the heart rate of the baby during the last 10 weeks that the mother is in the final stages of her pregnancy.

You should however note that the normal fetal heart rate is around twice as compared to the normal heart rate of a human adult who is at rest. It is however normal for the heart rate of the fetus to have slight variations. This is similar to the way your heart rate can vary depending on your level of activity, metabolic rate and several other factors. The baby's heart rate is therefore affected by what the baby is doing in the mother's womb. The baby could be moving around, sleeping or kicking about. There is however a normal range for the fetal heart rate depending on the stage at which the pregnancy is in.

fetal heart rate

The fetal heart rate patterns

It is very important to consult your doctor for matters pertaining to the heart rate of your baby. This is because he/she knows more specifically about your pregnancy and should therefore be able to determine the range of the heart rate using a device such as a fetoscope.

The fetal heart rate can be categorized into three definite patterns. These are:

  1. Normal
  2. Indeterminate
  3. Abnormal

Your doctor will be able to determine the pattern that is observed with the heartbeat of your baby. A normal heart rate is the most common and is experienced in about 77.9% of pregnancies.

An abnormal fetal heart rate

the fetal heart rate

An abnormal heart rate is experienced in baffling scenarios that are somewhat indeterminate. They are not a reliable indication of the condition of your baby and often lead to caesarian section. A better and more determinate system is need for evaluating an indeterminate fetal heart rate to reduce the number of unnecessary caesarian section that are carried out. This fetal heart rate usually necessitates that fetoscopy be carried out on the pregnant mother. Fetoscopy is a very delicate procedure but it is useful in treating abnormalities encountered during pregnancy. Fetoscopy, unlike determining the baby heart rate is a much more delicate procedure.

The last pattern of the fetal heart rate is the abnormal baby heart rate. Just like its name indicates, it is often an indicator that something is wrong with the pregnancy. It is a source of concern. If you are using a fetal doppler at home, it is extremely important that you consult your doctor who will have access to more accurate tools like a fetoscope immediately. An abnormal fetal heart rate is an indication that something is not right. The mother's or baby's life can be in danger and this is why it is of the utmost importance to see a doctor as soon as possible when the fetal heart rate isn't stable.