Fetal Heartbeat

Fetal Heartbeat

It’s exciting, isn’t it? To realize that you were pregnant and your baby starts to grow inside of you. Well, most of the mother who came for a visit early were expecting to hear the sound of their baby’s heartbeat. Unfortunately, if you were present before the 6 weeks of pregnancy, you wouldn’t hear a thing.

This is because your baby’s heart is still a tube which isn’t twisted and divided yet to form the pumping organ. The heart starts to beat spontaneously during the 5th week of pregnancy. I kid you not. Blood vessels were forming and your child would have a well-functioning cardiovascular system soon.

The number of beats will vary throughout pregnancy. During the 6th week, it will be at around 110 beats per minute. The number will escalate when the pregnancy reaches 8 weeks to 150 beats per minute. It will start to slow down from here on until delivery though, don’t worry. A handheld ultrasound device can be used to hear the beating sounds. 

If you can’t hear your child’s heartbeat early on, don’t panic. They were just shy, hiding from you, positioned awkwardly against the uterus making it difficult for the device to detect and amplify the telltale sound. Soon, you will begin to hear it. 

Different functions in the uterus

Although their circulatory systems were developing rather quickly, it will only function as it is intended once the baby is born. Since your baby was not breathing in your uterus, their lungs are not functioning yet. If you know anything about the circulatory system, you would understand that this should mean their systems are not yet completed. They would need other means of getting oxygen while expelling metabolic waste out.

You know what? Their demands for oxygen were met by the mother’s circulatory system through the umbilical cord. Umbilical artery and vein are two important structures that were connected to the baby for achieving this purpose. The blood also was shunted away from the respiratory circulation via a few ‘shortcuts’ such as ductus arteriosus and foramen ovale. They were holes which allow the blood to bypass respiratory circulation and focus on providing oxygen through the systemic circulation instead.

Once a baby is born, they will start to take their first breath, causing pressure changes in the chest allowing blood to flow through the respiratory circulation. You know, to get the red blood cells oxygenated. Manually, of course.

Keeping baby’s heart healthy

There are a few things that could do to ensure your baby’s heart remain healthy:

  • Quit smoking. Studies have shown that pregnant women who smoke have higher risks of getting babies with a congenital heart defect
  • Beware of certain drugs. If you were taking supplement, ask your doctor about it. Some medications can cause congenital heart defects in babies as its unintended consequences.
  • Take folic acid as instructed. Studies have shown it helps in preventing congenital heart diseases.
  • Stop drinking alcohol

Keep in mind that this is some ways you can minimize the risk of having babies with congenital heart defects. There’s no way to prevent this medical condition indefinitely as genetics has been recognized as one of the risk factors. If you are worried, you can schedule a check by visiting your doctor. A detailed scan is usually carried out when you are 18th weeks pregnant.

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