How Fetal Heart Rate Changes During Pregnancy (2022)

Your Baby

Fetal heart rate is fastest at about 9 weeks gestation, then slows


Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH

How Fetal Heart Rate Changes During Pregnancy (1)

Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH

Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.

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Updated on September 23, 2022

Medically reviewed

Verywell Family articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and family healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.


Brian Levine, MD, MS, FACOG

How Fetal Heart Rate Changes During Pregnancy (2)

Medically reviewed byBrian Levine, MD, MS, FACOG

Brian Levine, MD, MS, FACOG, is board-certified in obstetrics-gynecology, as well as reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI). He is the director and founding partner of CCRM New York and was named a rising star by Super Doctors from 2017 to 2019.

Learn about our Medical Review Board

(Video) Fast Heartbeat During Pregnancy - Reasons, Signs & Treatment

How Fetal Heart Rate Changes During Pregnancy (3)

Fetal heart rate changes throughout pregnancy. It's fastest at around 9 weeks gestation then gradually slows after the 13th week of pregnancy. But fetal heart rate by week remains faster than an adult heart rate. Many pregnant people, particularly after hearing their baby's heartbeat at a prenatal visit, may wonder what fetal heart rate is normal—and what's not. What you hear might really surprise you. Most people are not prepared for how quickly a baby's heart beats in pregnancy.

Most researchers and doctors define normal fetal heart rate as between 110 to 160 beats per minute (bpm), with some experts using narrower parameters, such as 110 to 150 bpm or 120 to 160 bpm.

How Your Baby's Heart Rate Changes

Though there are many words to describe the moment that you first hear your baby's heartbeat, most people use words like galloping to describe how the heart rate sounds. While the heart rate in pregnancy is faster than an adult's heart rate, the truth is that a normal fetal heart rate changes during the stages of pregnancy and throughout the day.

Throughout Pregnancy

At about fiveweeks gestation, your baby's heart begins to beat. At this point, a normal fetal heart rate is about the same as the gestational parents':80 to 85 beats per minute (bpm). From this point, it will increase its rate by about three beats per minute per day during that first month. This is so exact that your doctor or midwife can actually use heart rate to help pinpoint the gestational age of your baby via ultrasound.

The miscarriage rate for pregnancies in which a fetal heartbeat has been heard or seen is lower. However, if a fetal heartbeat is off by a week or more, it can indicate that a miscarriage is more likely.

By the beginning of the ninth week of pregnancy, the normal fetal heart rate is an average of 170 bpm, up from about 110 at 5 weeks gestation. After 13 weeks gestation, it begins a rapid deceleration to the normal fetal heart rate for mid-pregnancy, between 110 to 160 bpm. There is also a slowing of the normal fetal heart rate in the last 10 weeks of pregnancy, though the normal fetal heart rate is still about twice the normal adult's resting heart rate.

Interestingly, research shows that toward the end of pregnancy fetal heart rate differs between male and female babies, with female fetuses having noticeably higher heart rates.

Normal Fetal Heart Rate by Week
Gestation in Weeks5920-2428-3234-38
Average Fetal Heart Rate in Beats per Minute (bpm)110170144140136

Throughout the Day

Your baby's normal fetal heart rate will also vary naturally throughout the day and night, just as your own heart rate does. Movement, sleeping, and other activities can causenormal variation. Be sure to talk to your midwife or doctor about any concerns that you have with your baby's heart rate.

(Video) Fetal Heart Rate Tone Monitoring Decelerations | Early, Late, Variable NCLEX OB Maternity Nursing

If you are having a non-stress test at the end of pregnancy, you can hear the fluctuations. The heart rate goes up and down within a certain framework of normal. Imagine what it would sound like if you had ongoing audio of your heart rate as you were starting to exercise and then cooling down. Your heart rate would go up and down as well. Your baby has the same reaction.

Monitoring Baby's Heart Rate

Some parents may wonder if monitoring the baby's heart rate from day to day while at home is a smart idea. But the practice has pros and cons.

At Home

Some parents feel better when they can monitor the baby's heartbeat from home. This use of a doppler in the home is not recommended for most people. The concerns are multi-pronged and include overuse of the doppler listening device and/or misinterpretation, positively or negatively.

There are other ways to listen to your baby's heartbeat. Talk to your doctor or midwife about how to best monitor your baby if you are concerned.

In Labor

Fetal monitoring in labor can be done by intermittent auscultation, which means listening with a stethoscope, fetoscope, or handheld doppler at various points in labor. Your baby may be monitored intermittently with an external monitoring belt. Or your practitioner may recommend continuous monitoring, either external or internal.

Each of these practices has benefits and tradeoffs for you and your baby, depending on your laborand your medical history. Talk to your doctor or midwife for advice on which is best for you. In general, low-risk pregnancies will need less monitoring in labor.

However, during the process of labor, your baby may show signs of needing more intense monitoring or your labor or interventions may require increased monitoring to help boost the safety of procedures. For example, even if you are low risk, if you have a Pitocin induction of laboryou will likely have continuous external monitoring.

Fetal Monitoring in Labor

A Word From Verywell

You may worry when you first hear the heartbeat that something is wrong because it sounds so different than what you may be used to hearing. Rest assured, it is most likely normal. Ask your practitioner for advice if you are concerned.

4 Sources

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Valenti O, Di Prima FA, Renda E, Faraci M, Hyseni E, De Domenico R, Monte S, Giorgio E. Fetal cardiac function during the first trimester of pregnancy. J Prenat Med. 2011;5(3):59-62

  2. Pildner von Steinburg S, Boulesteix AL, Lederer C, Grunow S, Schiermeier S, Hatzmann W, Schneider KT, Daumer M. What is the "normal" fetal heart rate? PeerJ. 2013;1:e82. doi:10.7717/peerj.82

  3. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 106: Intrapartum fetal heart rate monitoring: nomenclature, interpretation, and general management principles. Obstet Gynecol. 2009;114(1):192-202. doi:10.1097/aog.0b013e3181aef106

  4. Shuffrey LC, Myers MM, Odendaal HJ, Elliott AJ, du Plessis C, Groenewald C, Burd L, Angal J, Nugent JD, Isler JR, Fifer WP; PASS Network. Fetal heart rate, heart rate variability, and heart rate/movement coupling in the Safe Passage Study. J Perinatol. 2019;39(5):608-618. doi:10.1038/s41372-019-0342-9

Additional Reading

  • As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA) Principle. American Institute for Ultrasound in Medicine.

  • Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. Gabbe, S, Niebyl, J, Simpson, JL. Seventh Edition; 2016.

  • Stamatopoulos N, Lu C, Casikar I, Reid S, Mongelli M, Hardy N, Condous G. Prediction of subsequent miscarriage risk in women who present with a viable pregnancy at the first early pregnancy scan. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2015 Oct;55(5):464-72. doi: 10.1111/ajo.12395. Epub 2015 Aug 21.

    (Video) Does fetal heart rate in early pregnancy predict gender of baby? - Dr. Thejaswini

How Fetal Heart Rate Changes During Pregnancy (4)

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.

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How does heartbeat change during pregnancy? ›

During pregnancy, the amount of blood pumped by the heart (cardiac output) increases by 30 to 50%. As cardiac output increases, the heart rate at rest speeds up from a normal prepregnancy rate of about 70 beats per minute to as high as 90 beats per minute.

What leads to changes in the fetal heart rate? ›

The average fetal heart rate is between 110 and 160 beats per minute. It can vary by 5 to 25 beats per minute. The fetal heart rate may change as your baby responds to conditions in your uterus. An abnormal fetal heart rate may mean that your baby is not getting enough oxygen or that there are other problems.

What is the importance of fetal heart rate? ›

Fetal heart rate monitoring may help detect changes in the normal heart rate pattern during labor. If certain changes are detected, steps can be taken to help treat the underlying problem. Fetal heart rate monitoring also can help prevent treatments that are not needed.

How do you determine fetal heart rate? ›

Place a small amount of gel (Doppler gel only) on the probe at the end of the monitor. Then put the probe on your lower abdomen, near your pubic bone. Angle or tilt the probe, keeping contact between your skin and the probe at all times, until you hear a galloping sound — the fetal heart rate.

When does the heartbeat start in a fetus? ›

The heart of an embryo starts beating at about week 5 of pregnancy. It may be possible to detect, at this point, using vaginal ultrasound. Throughout the pregnancy and delivery, healthcare providers monitor the heartbeat of the fetus. Anyone who has concerns about the fetal heartbeat should contact a doctor.

What happens to a woman when pregnant? ›

Your heartbeat and breathing rate are faster. Your breasts become tender, larger and heavier. Your growing uterus puts pressure on your bladder, so you feel like you need to urinate a lot. You may feel swinging moods.

Does fetal heart rate increase with movement? ›

When the baby moves, his heart rate should increase -- just as yours does when you move around or exercise. Every time you feel the baby move, you push a button. What do the results mean? If your baby is moving and active, his heart beats faster by at least 15 beats per minute.

Does baby heart rate decrease during pregnancy? ›

Fetal heart rate changes throughout pregnancy. It's fastest at around 9 weeks gestation then gradually slows after the 13th week of pregnancy. But fetal heart rate by week remains faster than an adult heart rate.

What are the two most important characteristics of the FHR? ›

There are two features that should always be assessed: The baseline fetal heart rate. The presence or absence of decelerations: If present, the relation of the deceleration to the contraction must be determined. It is very important to compare the timing of the contraction to the timing of the deceleration.

What is a baby's heart rate for a girl? ›

Did heart rate help predict gender? The average heart rate for baby boys in the first trimester was 154.9 bpm (plus or minus 22.8 bpm) and for baby girls it was 151.7 bpm (plus or minus 22.7 bpm). In other words, this myth is busted.

Which qualities are considered normal when assessing fetal heart rate? ›

Normal fetal heart rate (or 'baseline'): approximately 110 – 160 beats per minute. Slow fetal heart rate (bradycardia): under 110 beats per minute. Fast fetal heart rate (tachycardia): more than 160 beats per minute.

Where is the fetal heartbeat best heard? ›

After 30 weeks' gestation, fetal heart tones are best heard through the fetal back. As shown in the top photo, you can find it by gently palpating the mother's abdomen for a firm area midline on the left or right side. (Before 30 weeks, the fetus is very small and can change position easily.)

What is it called before a fetus? ›

Your developing fetus has already gone through a few name changes in the first few weeks of pregnancy. Generally, it's called an embryo from conception until the eighth week of development. After the eighth week, it's called a fetus until it's born.

Can you see heartbeat at 7 weeks? ›

A strong fetal heartbeat can be clearly seen at 7 weeks. The range can be from 100 to 180 beats per minute (bpm) . Any earlier than 7 weeks, you may not see the embryo or fetal heart beating due to the embryo being so small. A gestational sac and yolk sac may only be visible.

Is a fetus a baby? ›

At the end of the 10th week of pregnancy, your baby is no longer an embryo. It is now a fetus, the stage of development up until birth.

How can you have twins? ›

Twins can occur either when two separate eggs become fertilized in the womb or when a single fertilized egg splits into two embryos. Having twins is more common now than it was in the past. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , twin births have nearly doubled over the last 40 years.

What is the husband's role during pregnancy? ›

Pregnancy is a time for your partner to take care of her emotional needs, to make sure they are eating healthy foods, getting exercise, and making sure to abstain from unhealthy habits like drinking and smoking.

Why is fetal heart rate so high? ›

Babies' hearts beat much faster than their parents', both to fuel their growth and make up for greater heat loss to the environment. So little hearts maintain a higher metabolic rate, pound for pound, than big hearts.

When do fetal heart rates slow down? ›

Normal fetal heart rate

By week 9 or 10, the rate will hover around 170 beats per minute — and then slow from here on out. At around week 20, it'll go down to about 140 beats per minute.

Does fetal heart rate slow down when sleeping? ›

Similarly, when the baby is asleep, its heart rate may stay low. While fetal heart rate normally varies over the course of the day, a sustained low fetal heart rate (below the normal range), may be a cause of concern as the baby might not be getting enough oxygen and should be reported to the doctor.

What are the three fetal heart rate categories? ›

  • Normal FHR baseline: 110–160 bpm.
  • Tachycardia: FHR baseline > than 160 bpm.
  • Bradycardia: FHR baseline < than 110 bpm.
15 Jun 2020

What is a normal baseline fetal heart rate? ›

Introduction. A baseline fetal heart rate between 110 and 160 bpm is considered normal. However, among normal fetuses the average baseline heart rate has been shown to diminish progressively and the 90th centile of the fetal heart rate at 40 weeks of gestation has been consistently found at around 150 bpm.

What is Category 3 fetal heart rate? ›

NICHD Category III (CIII) fetal heart rate tracing (FHR) is defined as having either sinusoidal pattern or absent baseline variability plus recurrent late decelerations, recurrent variable decelerations, or bradycardia. We sought to describe demographics and neonatal outcomes associated with CIII.

Does anterior placenta mean boy? ›

According to the results, 72.8 percent of pregnancies with girls did have an anterior placenta, compared to only 27.2 percent of pregnancies with boys. The study concluded that while the location of the placenta had “significant relation with fetal gender,” more research is needed.

Does heartbeat predict gender? ›

An average fetal heart rate ranges from 110 to 160 beats per minute (bpm) and changes when the baby is active. Some babies have heart rates that are slower or faster than average. But this has nothing to do with the sex of your baby. “The fetal heart rate does not predict the sex of the baby,” says Dr.

Are boys or girls more active in the womb? ›

Research shows girls kick as often as boys. Babies who kick a lot in the womb are also more active after birth. Some mothers have more trouble feeling the kicks than others. If the placenta is on the front side of the womb, or if you are overweight, you will feel the kicks less.

What is a variable in fetal heart rate? ›

Variable decelerations are irregular, often jagged dips in the fetal heart rate that look more dramatic than late decelerations. Variable decelerations happen when the baby's umbilical cord is temporarily compressed.

What causes minimal fetal heart rate variability? ›

Among the disorders associated with decreased FHR variability during labor are fetal asphyxia and acidosis and subsequent distress in the newborn. Among the factors that influence FHR variability are maternal fever, fetal immaturity, so-called fetal sleep, fetal tachycardia, and drug administration to the mother.

What is fetal heart variability? ›

Beat-to-beat or short-term variability is the oscillation of the FHR around the baseline in amplitude of 5 to 10 bpm. Long-term variability is a somewhat slower oscillation in heart rate and has a frequency of three to 10 cycles per minute and an amplitude of 10 to 25 bpm.

What gender baby has a higher heart rate? ›

A baby girl's heart rate is usually faster than a boy's, but only after the onset of labor. There's no difference between fetal heart rates for boys and girls, but the rate does vary with the age of the fetus. By approximately the fifth week of pregnancy, the fetal heart rate is near the mother's — around 80 to 85 BPM.

Can you see a heartbeat at 6 weeks? ›

While the heart of a fetus is still developing, it may be detectable by ultrasound as early as 6 weeks gestation. Technically, it is not a fetus at this point but an embryo, and the heartbeat is only visible on an ultrasound, not audible this early in pregnancy.

How can finger detect pregnancy? ›

It's possible to check the position and firmness of your cervix at home. You can do this by inserting a finger into your vagina to feel for the cervix. Your middle finger may be the most effective finger to use because it's the longest, but use whichever finger is easiest for you.

What are the symptoms of heartbeat in pregnancy? ›

Cardiac Signs and Symptoms During Pregnancy
  • Fatigue.
  • Fainting.
  • Chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Trouble breathing while lying down.
  • Palpitations (awareness of heartbeat)

How do you tell if a woman is pregnant by looking at her? ›

You cannot diagnose a pregnancy by merely looking at a woman's eyes. This is a historical and outdated method of detecting pregnancy.

How does your lower stomach feel in early pregnancy? ›

Lower abdominal pain is normal during pregnancy and is most common between 18 and 24 weeks. Your growing uterus is pulling and straining the muscles that support it. You may feel sharp pains or just a mild pulling sensation. It often occurs when you cough, sneeze, stand up, sit down, roll over, or during sex.

What part of the breast hurts in early pregnancy? ›

For many women, the nipples are particularly sensitive in these early weeks. They can be so tender to the touch that it hurts to dry off after a shower or put on a bra (go braless with confidence!). But extreme nipple sensitivity typically passes within a few weeks.

How can we do pregnancy test at home? ›

You'll either urinate on a pregnancy dipstick, or urinate in a cup and then put the dipstick in the urine. You'll wait a few minutes for the results. At-home pregnancy tests claim to be about 99 percent accurate. But they can sometimes result in a false positive or a false negative.

Can a mother feel the fetal heartbeat? ›

Can you hear baby's heartbeat with the human ear? Detecting a fetal heartbeat is very difficult, if not impossible, for the human ear. But some expecting mothers claim they can hear their baby's heartbeat through their belly. This may be possible in a quiet room likely late during the second or third trimester.

Can you feel baby's heartbeat with your hand? ›

The best spot to feel the pulse in a child is the wrist, called the radial pulse. Gently feel on the inside of the wrist on the thumb side. If you can't easily find the pulse on the wrist, you can try the neck, which has the carotid pulse.

What is fetus doing at 8 weeks? ›

8 Weeks Pregnant: Your Baby's Development

This week, hands and feet are forming tiny fingers and toes, and those arms are able to flex at the elbows and wrists. At this point, eyes begin to develop pigment, and genitals are forming too, although it's still too soon to know whether you're expecting a boy or a girl.

What color is your pee if pregnant? ›

Normally, the color of urine can be light yellow or yellow to transparent. But for a pregnant woman, this change is more prominent and noticeable. The urine color can change from light yellow to dark yellow. It can go to an orange-yellow shade too.

How do we know that sperm has entered or not? ›

Can you feel when sperm enters? Yes, if your partner has a strong and intense ejaculation during unprotected sex, you can feel when sperm enters as the ejaculation shoots inside you. If your partner doesn't ejaculate much, you cannot feel it. Also, you cannot feel when the sperm fertilises the egg.

Can dogs detect pregnancy? ›

Because a huge part of a dog's brain is devoted to analyzing odors, dogs are able to pick up on different scents resulting from chemical changes, cancer, insulin levels, bombs, drugs, a person's menstrual cycle, and even pregnancy, according to Russ Hartstein, a certified behaviorist and dog trainer in Los Angeles.

How many days we can check pregnancy test? ›

When you can do a pregnancy test. You can carry out most pregnancy tests from the first day of a missed period. If you don't know when your next period is due, do the test at least 21 days after you last had unprotected sex. Some very sensitive pregnancy tests can be used even before you miss a period.

Do you feel wet in early pregnancy? ›

Early on in a pregnancy, you may feel more wetness in your underwear than usual. You may also notice a larger amount of dry whitish-yellow discharge on your underwear at the end of the day or overnight.

Can ultrasound detect 1 week pregnancy? ›

How early can a healthy pregnancy be seen on ultrasound scan? The earliest an ultrasound scan can identify a healthy pregnancy inside the uterine cavity is 17 days after the egg was released from the ovary (ovulation). This is approximately three days after a missed period.


1. I'm 35 weeks pregnant and my baby's heartbeat isn't normal. What should I do?
2. Measuring Fetal Heart Rate with M-Mode
(POCUS Geek)
3. Maternity: Fetal Monitoring
4. Fetal heart rate tracing | Mnemonics, Concepts & Management | High yield review
5. Is it normal during pregnancy to have a high heart rate?
6. Fetal Heart Monitoring - NCLEX Highyield -Archer
(Archer Review NCLEX, USMLE, TEAS7, and FNP)

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