It is music to parents’ ears, the first time they hear their unborn baby’s heartbeat. But, beyond being a joyous noise, what do doctors glean from hearing your baby’s heartbeat through the Doppler ultrasound test?
A Doppler ultrasound uses sound waves that bounce off your baby’s heart to create sound, which is heard as a heartbeat. During this process, the ultrasound wand is placed on the mother’s belly. Once the correct blood vessel is found the doctor can check the blood flow through the placenta, heart or brain of your baby. The test can also show if the baby’s placenta, heart and brain are receiving adequate blood flow.
A doctor can typically hear a fetal heartbeat through a Doppler ultrasound at around seven weeks gestation. A healthy fetal heartbeat is usually between 120 and 160 beats per minute, and sounds like a horse galloping. An abnormal heart rate may be the sign of a compressed umbilical cord, infection, anemia, cardiac malformations, or that the baby is not receiving enough oxygen.