How to hear heartbeats
· Stethoscope - We've all experienced having our heart and lungs listened to through a stethoscope and this symbol of medicine can detect a baby's heartbeat in utero typically at about 18 to 20 weeks, depending upon maternal and fetal factors.
· Pinard Horn - This is an old fetal listening device can also be used from about 18 to 20 weeks. It isn't commonly used at prenatal appointments, but the doctor may have one. The flat end of the device is place on the doctor's (or midwife's) ear while the horn end is moved around on the mother's abdomen.
· Fetoscope - This is a combination of the previously mentioned two instruments and is generally used by the doctor from about 12 weeks on. It uses the person's forehead to conduct sound and does require some skill to be able to detect and listen to the heartbeat.
· Fetal Doppler - None of the previous devices use ultrasound. However, the fetal Doppler uses ultrasound technology to bounce sound waves off the baby and return the sound of fetal heartbeat. It is effective from 8 to 12 weeks as a normal time frame. The heartbeat can sound like galloping horses when heard through the fetal Doppler.
· Fetal monitor - There are two types of fetal monitors used to track a baby's heartbeat:
The external monitor is strapped to the mother's stomach and is attached to a device that reads the baby's heartbeat as well as the contractions.
The internal monitor is sometimes used in the case of a high risk pregnancy and is only used during labor when the amniotic sac is broken. A little spring-like wire probe is inserted under the skin on the baby's head while still in the uterus.
This is a more sensitive type of device and gives a very accurate reading of the heartbeat, especially necessary during a high risk delivery. The fetal monitor is used during labor and delivery to keep tabs on the baby's stress levels.
Learn how to monitor your baby's heartbeat at home in the article in this section.