Medical Q&As

Foetal heartbeat - present?

I am 12 to 14 weeks pregnant. The nurse could not find the baby's heartbeat. Is this common or is it a very bad sign? Should I go for an ultrasound to find out if everything is ok?

This is quite a common experience and need not be a cause of concern. At this early stage of pregnancy the foetal heart cannot be heard with a stethoscope. In such situations an instrument called a Doppler scanner is necessary to detect the heartbeat but even when using this instrument the babyís position or the layers of fatty tissue in the motherís abdominal wall may interfere with the detection of the heartbeat. There is also the possibility that you may have miscalculated your expected date of delivery and you may have conceived a little bit later than you think. For example if it is 12 to 14 weeks since the date of your last period the foetus could be 8 to 10 weeks old and if you add in a margin of error in the date calculation you could find that the foetus is at a slightly earlier stage of development than you think. The foetus needs to be at least 10 weeks old before the heartbeat can be detected. It is quite likely that everything is fine but if this issue is a cause of great concern to you an ultrasound scan can be performed at the hospital in order to demonstrate that the babyís heart is beating.