Hearing the baby's heart beat for the first time is often the first bonding experience for many parents. The sound of the "galloping" heart of your family's newest addition forming inside of the new mother can be enough to put many parents to tears. For doctors, monitoring the fetal heart is one of the easiest ways to determine the health of your unborn baby and there is no known risk to listening.
The embryonic heart starts beating 22 days after conception, during the fifth week of pregnancy. It is too small to hear at this early stage but sometimes can be viewed as a flicker on an ultrasound as early as four weeks. If the doctor can’t see a heartbeat, it could just mean that the dating of the pregnancy is incorrect and he might suggest you come back at a later date. At 9-10 weeks you might be able to hear the heartbeat using Doppler but it depends on your weight, the position of your uterus and the instrument. By week 12-14, you should be able to hear it consistently with Doppler.
The technician will assess the fetal heartbeat, sometimes referred to as fetal heart tones, by counting how many beats are in a minute. They might listen for a full minute, for 15 seconds and then multiply by four, or just be attuned enough to listen for a normal rate. Some instruments are already equipped to provide a reading so that the technician doesn’t need to count. It’s not uncommon for the Doppler to pick up the mother’s heart beat instead of the fetus. A medical professional might check the mother’s heartbeat to see if it matches what they are hearing. The mother’s heartbeat should be under 100 bpm (beats per minute) but the baby’s will be between 120-180 bpm. The fetal heart typically starts beating at 80-85 bpm, then spikes up to180 bpm and then gradually slows to 120-160 bpm by 12 weeks gestation. It typically slows again before birth to a range of 120-140 bpm. Some fetal heartbeats past term might drop to 110 bpm. The male and female heartbeats exhibit no differences, contrary to the popular myth.
When listening to the heartbeat using a Doppler ultrasound fetal heartbeat detector, it won’t be the actual heartbeat that you are hearing. What you hear is an amplified “beat frequency”; that is the interaction between the response and the frequency used by the Doppler. As the outgoing frequency (sent by the Doppler) runs into the physical movements of the heart, the closer the heart is, the higher the frequency is and the further the heart is the lower. The beating heart thus creates an alternating frequency that creates the sound of the heart beat. A quiet or loud heartbeat is not an indicator of abnormalities; it just depends on the distance between the fetus and the instrument.
Twin heartbeats can be hard to distinguish. Placing the instrument at two different places over the uterus can usually allow a technician to hear the two different beats; however an ultrasound might be required to be sure.
Once you reach 20 weeks, Doppler is no longer necessary to hear the heartbeat. A fetoscope can be placed on the uterus - much like a stethoscope is used to hear the heart at a routine doctor’s appointment. It might be hard to hear though if you are overweight or if the placenta lies in the way. Sometimes a fetoscope can be used to hear the heartbeat as early as 16 weeks. As the pregnancy progresses, it will be easier to hear using this instrument.
Some parents purchase Doppler to use in the home. If you decide to purchase one of these, be aware that the heartbeat can often be hard to find, or picking up the mother’s heartbeat is not uncommon. In other words, if you don’t find the heartbeat right away, it is not a cause for panic.
The fetal heartbeat may react to chronic anxiety of the mother and other heart rate changes in the mother. A wide-range study revealed that hearing the voices of strangers can decelerate the heart rate and hearing the mother’s voice can accelerate it. If the fetal heart rate does not change, is too low or too high (outside a range of 110-180 bpm) it could indicate a problem. When giving birth, the fetal heart rate will respond to the contractions with a pattern. Deviance from this established pattern could indicate a problem as well. However, fetal heart beat changes do not always indicate a problem. About 14% of normal babies have irregular heartbeats (a skipped beat or extra beat) during their time in the womb and there is only a 1-2% chance of finding something wrong, according to a YaleUniversity study. If fetal heart rate variances present themselves during labor you may be asked to change positions, take medication to relax the uterus, be given an IV or oxygen through a mask.
Listening to a baby’s heart beat can be a heart-warming experience. Conversely, when problems present themselves it can be difficult to not panic. Hopefully, fueled with the knowledge of how the fetal heartbeat develops and knowing how rare the incidence of problems due to fetal heart rate abnormalities are, you will be prepared for whatever a Doppler or fetoscope reveals and be able to enjoy it as the miraculous sound of life that it is.
Cord Blood Registry is one of the most trusted cord blood banks in the world and this week marks their twentieth anniversary! That's 20 years of advancing medical research, 20 years of helping those who needed stem cell treatments the most and 20 years of educating the general public about the life-saving qualities of umbilical cord blood. This infographic the company created perfectly depicts two decades of keeping the vision of stem cell treatments derived from cord blood at the forefront of scientific advancements:
Singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb (44) welcomed her second child with husband Roey Hershkovitz (33)! Emet Kuli arrived on Friday, June 15th, in Los Angeles. He weighed 7 lbs., 7 oz. and measured 20 inches long. Emet joins big sister Lyla Rose (2 1/2). Loeb shares, "We’re so happy to have a sweet, healthy baby. Lyla is excited to be a big sister!"
An estimated 21 days after conception, the fetus begins to separate from the placenta by a connecting stalk. The stalk is the beginning of the umbilical cord and the early circulatory system. Approximately, five weeks after conception, the umbilical cord is almost completely formed with one stalk for waste (the early gastrointestinal track), two arteries and one vein. In the beginning, the two arteries send waste from the fetus to the placenta and the vein sends oxygenated blood and nutrients to the fetus from the placenta.
The role of the blood vessels changes throughout development. By week 10, the gastrointestinal track is formed as a natural protrusion from the umbilical cord. By the end of the third month, the gastrointestinal track has receded into the stomach. The cord reaches completion around the 28th week of pregnancy. It can reach up to 24 inches long. By approximately 31 weeks, it’s estimated that the umbilical cord carries 70 quarts of blood a day at a rate of four miles an hour, acting as an assistant pump to the heart.
The blood vessels that make up the umbilical cord can be in a variety of arrangements - twisted, straight, parallel or connected. They are embedded in Wharton’s Jelly, a durable liquid. Wharton’s jelly serves many purposes - it provides elasticity and cushioning, holds the vessels together, helps to deliver nutrients to the fetus, protects the life line, and contains the chemistry for the onset of labor. It also provides a natural clamping of the cord by collapsing structures in reaction to temperature changes. The Wharton’s jelly and the umbilical blood are rich sources of stem cells.
The umbilical cord can often be an indicator of fetal health and problems presented by the cord can be the cause of a number of defects. The cord can be too long or too short, might not connect properly, have a knot or be compressed. Most cord abnormalities are not found until after delivery but some can be seen on an ultrasound. All umbilical cords will exhibit unique properties, and differences do not necessarily equal an abnormality or have an impact on the fetus.
Approximately five percent of umbilical cords are either too short or too long. It’s relatively unknown what causes these differences, however, they’re often related to the movement of the fetus. Shorter cords are more common among multiples and longer cords are more common among male fetuses. Cord length has also been correlated with long-term consequences. Studies have associated lower IQ, motor skill abnormalities, and cerebral palsy with a shorter umbilical cord and longer cords have been linked to hyperactive behavior and problems with behavioral control. The cord can elongate until approximately 36 weeks gestation and the average length is 61cm or 24 inches. First pregnancies produce more short cords than subsequent ones. The diameter and circumference of the cord can also be relevant. The circumference range is from 3 cm-5cm. 3.7cm is considered average.
The umbilical cord naturally twists and more often to the left than to the right for unknown reasons. Twisting is related to fetal movement and excessive twisting can become dangerous for the fetus. In cases where the umbilical cord is too short, twisting is more likely to become dangerous. Less twisting than is normal can also mean possible problems because it indicates a lack of movement from the fetus.
The Wharton’s jelly is important for maintaining the integrity of the cord and resisting compression. When a cord twists or knots, it is most likely to do so where there is less Wharton’s jelly, because of the decreased resistance in those areas. It’s been reported that males have more Wharton’s jelly than females and that good nutrition can increase the amount present.
Cords without helices (there are usually about 10-11) can also be an indication of fetal health. The spiral shape is naturally formed by the growing blood vessels contained in the umbilical cord, but it’s unclear why this happens. Helices are formed as early as 42 days gestation and become fairly established by eight weeks gestation. The helices most often form in a counterclockwise direction, but sometimes they may exhibit two different directions.
Typically, the cord will insert into the center of the placenta and the blood vessels implant securely like the roots of a tree. In about 7% of singleton pregnancies, the cord will insert near the very end of the placenta. Rarely, there will be no umbilical cord at all and the fetus will be directly connected to the placenta. If the cord is short, then the further away the cord inserts from the cervix, the more likely a cesarean will be performed for delivery. In 1% of singleton pregnancies the cord will not insert into the placenta at all, instead the fetal vessels come through the external membranes before inserting into the placenta.
Cord prolapse occurs when the umbilical cord falls into the vagina after the bag of waters ruptures. When the baby descends into the birth canal, he or she can end up compressing the cord and cutting off blood supply and restricting oxygen. This is a fairly common complication, occurring once for every 300 pregnancies. The Wharton’s jelly present in the umbilical cord is very strong and can resist many incidences of compression, unfortunately though, it can often be underdeveloped in some places. The consequences of cord prolapse can be fatal for the baby, and a cesarean section is often necessary. However, it may resolve itself on its own. A health professional can reveal a cord prolapse by performing a pelvic examination and will be clued in by an abnormality in the fetal heartbeat once the bag of waters has ruptured. There are certain factors that can increase the incidence of cord prolapse: a breech position, preterm labor, longer than normal cord, too much amniotic fluid, rupturing the membranes to speed up labor, and delivery of twins vaginally.
25% of babies are born with a nuchal cord, where the cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck. This state rarely causes problems. Sometimes heart rate abnormalities will present themselves which indicates pressure on the cord, but rarely do these cause death or lasting effects. Cesarean delivery will be called for only occasionally. The cord can also be wrapped around a hand or foot, but again, this rarely causes problems.
There is still so much that the medical community does not know about functions and malfunctions of the umbilical cord. The amazing lifeline that supports the baby throughout pregnancy is a strong yet delicate structure. Ultrasound and Doppler techniques can be used to determine if problems are present. The visual image can often be sufficient in revealing abnormalities in the cord. In addition, the fetal blood flow through the umbilical cord can also be used as an indicator. The more forward blood flow from the fetus to the placenta through the cord, the healthier the fetus is determined to be. When viewing images of the umbilical cord, feel free to ask questions about any unique characteristics you may see. Identifying the state of the umbilical cord can be an important step towards delivering a healthy baby.
Have you seen you baby's umbilical cord on an ultrasound?
If you plan on having multiple children and want to save money, cloth diapering could be your new friend. The average child goes through 5000-8000 diaper changes, adding up to about $1500-$2000 in disposable diapers. When using cloth, typically a parent spends less than $500 and you can resell them for about 50% of the market price. If saving money isn’t reason enough, studies have found that the out-gassing of certain materials used in conventional disposables have been linked to respiratory problems. Cloth diapering may seem intimidating but it needn’t be, in fact some people find it addictive! Once you are set up you will be amazed at how easy it is. Experiment with the different kinds, sometimes a “starter kit” is available that gives you a variety of types.
What you’ll need: (Newborns need 10-12 changes a day, toddlers 8-10)
24-36 cloth diapers
4-6 diaper covers
12-24 doublers or liners (more if a heavy wetter)
1 diaper pail. The diaper pail is just a covered container, like a garbage can.
1 diaper pail liner (waterproof and odor-proof bag).
2-3 dozen cloth wipes. Wipes can be made from cheap washcloths or cut up pieces of fabric, just add warm water.
2-3 bags for traveling. These can be large zipper plastic bags.
If you forego the covers and just use pre-folds you will need 4-6 fasteners.
Optional: 0-3 all-in-ones, 0-2 wool or fleece covers for nighttime, and a wool wash with lanolin.
There are a lot of choices to make when deciding to cloth diaper.
Prefold diapers are the classic cloth diaper and can double as burp cloths or as a clean surface to put the baby on. They are often called DSQ’s for “diaper service quality.” These no longer require pins, although you can still use pins or plastic fasteners but most will stay in place when you put the cover on.
Contoured and fitted diapers don’t require folding they just fit right into the covers. Adjustable contoured diapers grow with the child. Fitted ones have elastic near the openings to reduce the chance of blowouts, but be sure to try these before committing to make sure they fit correctly. Fitted diapers come equipped with a velcro, snap or tie latch on them.
All-in-one and pocket diapers are the closest to disposables. They have a waterproof cover over layers of absorbent material. A cotton prefold or insert of some type is put into the pocket between the layers and the inner layer keeps the baby dry. The all-in-ones are great if you are going out or leaving the baby with a sitter but they take longer to dry and are expensive, plus the fitting isn’t as versatile and they don’t last as long.Diaper Covers: If you don’t get all-in-one or pocket diapers with waterproofing built in, you will need to choose diaper covers. They come in pull-ups, wrap-arounds or with side-snaps.
Pull-ups are great when transitioning to potty training although removal can be tricky when the child has really soiled themselves. Typically pull-ups are used with fitted diapers because prefolds won’t be held snugly and will require fasteners.
Wrap-arounds need to fit snugly to avoid leaks so take measurements carefully.
Side-snaps also need to be fitted well to avoid leaks; note that these are not as snug as wrap-arounds.
Did you know it’s illegal to put human feces in the garbage? Even poop from disposables is supposed to be dumped in the toilet.
If cloth diapering seems like too much time and energy, diaper services are handy and you don’t even have to flush the solids - just throw the dirty diapers in a bag and place outside your door where the diaper service will leave a package of fresh diapers. A service may seem expensive but some are still cheaper than buying disposables.
Do you intend to cloth diaper?
Crazy For Cloth: The Benefits Of Cloth Diapers [Mothering]
Every week we feature the best baby photos sent to us through our Babies of the Week contest. We receive photos from parents from all over the world. Here are a few of our favorites:
Timothy Joseph aka "T.J." was born on 11/11/11. Mom says, ". I am 39 years old, have a 20 year old daughter and was told that I would need infertility help if I wanted to have another child. I wasn't planning on having another one and was actually scheduling to have a procedure done so that I wouldn't be able to. Two days prior to my appointment, I found out that I was pregnant. He was definitely an angel sent from God!! I thank him every day for this wonderful gift!"
Wenzizwi was born on August 18th, 2010. Mom says, "She is very clever...she doesn't talk but can be able to count from 1 to 10; she can be able to say 7 days of the week... she knows poems e.g Twinkle twinkle little star...She is likes to dance for every song. She is a very happy child. She is so adorable."
Aiden James was born on November 27th. Mom says, "Aiden is an excellent baby. He is content and quiet all the time. He loves to cuddle and has been moving all around since he was 3 days old."
Lashyaa was born on November 20th, 2010. Mom says, "The things make my child special are her smile and she grabs the attention of the people wherever she is, such a fun loving girl."
Petra Valentina is four months old and always smiling. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia and has a big sister that is two-years-old.
Thanks to all the parents who sent us their pictures. You can see the rest of the featured photos on the front page of BabyWeekly. To enter your baby picture for the Baby of the Week contest, please click here. Due to the high volume of submissions we receive, it may take many months before your baby's photo is featured.