How Late can Heartbeat Start in Pregnancy?

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Monika Dubey
Written by Shivani Arora, last updated on 6 September 2023
How Late can Heartbeat Start in Pregnancy?

Are you pregnant and curious about the development of your baby's heartbeat? As a mom-to-be, worrying about every detail of your pregnancy is natural. One of the most significant moments for any expecting parent is the emergence of their little one's heartbeat. However, if you're wondering how late can heartbeat start in pregnancy, you're not alone!

In this blog post, you will get all the information and insights that will help you ease any anxiousness or concern about a late heartbeat during pregnancy. So keep reading to know more!

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About Late Heartbeat in Pregnancy

The average foetal heart rate should be somewhere between 120 and 160 beats per minute during the first trimester. It can vary from pregnancy to pregnancy, so don't be alarmed if yours differs.

Your foetal cardiac activity starts at 6th week and will usually become detectable by ultrasound during your sixth or seventh week of pregnancy. However, it may take up to 10 weeks before the foetal heartbeat is clearly visible on an ultrasound scan.

There are various scenarios in which that can provide answer to the question how late can heartbeat start in pregnancy which are as follows

  1. One possibility is that you ovulated later than expected and conceived later than you thought. In this case, it means your baby is growing on schedule, behind where you originally thought they were.
  2. Another possibility is that implantation was delayed, and your baby grew later than average. This isn't cause for concern either, as long as everything else appears normal on your ultrasound. 
Late onset of foetal heartbeats can also occur due to abnormalities such as chromosomal problems or placental insufficiency. If baby heartbeat is not found in ultrasound after 10 weeks, further investigations will likely be necessary to confirm the viability of the pregnancy.
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Causes of Late Heartbeat in Pregnancy

There are many possible causes of a late heartbeat in pregnancy. It may be due to the mother's health, the baby's health, or a combination of both.

  1. Placenta: The most common cause of a delayed heartbeat is a problem with the placenta.
    The placenta is the organ providing oxygen and nutrients to the developing baby. If it isn't functioning properly, the baby may not get enough oxygen, which can cause a delay in the heartbeat.
    Other problems with the placenta can also cause a delay in the heartbeat, such as placental abruption (when the placenta detaches from the uterus) or placental infarction (when part of the placenta dies).
  2. Hypertension: This can occur for various reasons, including preeclampsia (a condition that occurs only during pregnancy), gestational hypertension, and chronic hypertension (high blood pressure that existed before pregnancy).
    Maternal hypertension can cause damage to the placenta and restrict blood flow to the baby, both of which can lead to a delay in the heartbeat.
  3. Foetal Hypoxia: It is another possible cause of a late heartbeat in pregnancy. Foetal hypoxia can occur for several reasons, such as if the mother has anaemia or if there is decreased blood flow to the uterus. If foetal hypoxia occurs for an extended period of time.

Risks Associated with Late Heartbeat in Pregnancy

If a baby's heartbeat is not found in ultrasound until after six weeks of pregnancy, it is considered late. There are a bunch of risks associated with a late heartbeat in pregnancy:

  1. Ectopic Pregnancy: A late heartbeat can indicate a possible complication called an ectopic pregnancy. This occurs when the embryo implants outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube.
    While this type of pregnancy can occur in any week, it is most common between the fifth and ninth weeks. 
  2. Preterm Labour: Late heartbeat in pregnancy increases the risk of preterm labour, which can lead to a premature baby who is at an increased risk of health and developmental problems.
  3. Foetal Distress: A late heartbeat during pregnancy can indicate foetal distress or other complications that could be dangerous for both mother and child. 
  4. Placental Abruption: This occurs when the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus before birth and deprives the foetus of oxygen, leading to organ damage or even death in severe cases. 
  5. Stillbirth: If left untreated, a late heartbeat during pregnancy may result in stillbirth as it reduces blood flow to the foetus, causing hypoxia (lack of oxygen). 
  6. Postpartum Haemorrhage: Late heartbeats increase the risk for postpartum haemorrhage after delivery due to weakened uterine muscles.
    This is caused by reduced blood flow during the gestation period leading to severe bleeding after birth, which may put both mother’s life at risk if not treated immediately with medications or surgery if necessary.

While most women who experience a late heartbeat will have a healthy baby, it is crucial to know the potential risks and seek medical care if you experience vaginal bleeding or abdominal pain during pregnancy.

Diagnosing Late Heartbeat in Pregnancy

If you're pregnant and have yet to hear your baby's heartbeat, you may be wondering how late it can start. After all, hearing that telltale thump can be such a momentous occasion during pregnancy!

  1. Transvaginal Scan: A transvaginal scan is a useful tool for diagnosing late heartbeat in pregnancy.
    1. The procedure involves using an ultrasound probe inserted into the vagina to view the fetus and its surrounding organs. 
    2. This allows for detailed images to detect any abnormalities related to the baby's development, such as a delayed or irregular heartbeat. 
    3. These scans are safe and non-invasive, making them ideal for pregnant women who wish to ensure their baby is healthy and developing normally.
  2. Transabdominal Scan: A transabdominal scan is a non-invasive procedure used to diagnose a late heartbeat in pregnancy. It is essential for ensuring the health and well-being of both mother and baby during pregnancy.
    1. This type of ultrasound uses sound waves to create an image of the womb, where the foetal heart can be seen and monitored. 
    2. It provides important information about the baby’s health, such as size, position, and heartbeat. 
    3. The scan also helps monitor any potential risks associated with a late heartbeat, including low birth weight or preterm labour. 
  3. Doppler Stethoscope: A doppler stethoscope is a valuable tool for diagnosing late heartbeat in pregnancy. 
    1. This device uses ultrasound technology to detect and measure the speed of blood flow from the foetal heart and other vessels in pregnant women. 
    2. It can provide clear, accurate readings of a baby's cardiac activity, which allows physicians to diagnose any potential problems with the developing foetus quickly. 
    3. The doppler stethoscope is an invaluable diagnostic aid for ensuring that both mother and baby stay healthy during pregnancy.
  4. Foetal Heart Rate Monitoring: Foetal heart rate monitoring is used to diagnose late heartbeat in pregnancy. 
    1. It involves the use of ultrasound, doppler technology, or other methods to measure and monitor the baby's heart rate during labour and delivery. 
    2. It can help detect potential health problems for the baby, such as slow heart rate or irregular patterns. 
    3. This non-invasive procedure is important for ensuring the safety of both mother and child throughout pregnancy.

While it's true that generally, you'll hear the heartbeat sometime between weeks 10 to 12 of pregnancy, there are various ranges of normal when it comes to foetal heart rates. So don't panic if you haven't heard your baby's heartbeat yet. It may just be a little early. 

That said, there are some instances in which a late heartbeat may be cause for concern. If you're past week 12 of pregnancy and still haven't heard the heartbeat, contacting your healthcare provider to check-in is important. They may want to perform an ultrasound to check the baby's development and ensure everything is on track.

What to Expect After a Late Foetal Heartbeat has Started?

The chances of the foetus surviving greatly increase once a heartbeat is detected, even if it is late in the pregnancy. If the heartbeat is strong and healthy, then the rest of the pregnancy should proceed normally.

However, if the heartbeat is very weak, it may be a sign that the foetus is not developing properly. In this case, further testing may be needed to determine the best course of action. Here are a few things that will be advised to you in case of a late heartbeat in pregnancy:

  1. Close monitoring of the foetus: Following a late foetal heartbeat, it is recommended that the expectant mother and her healthcare provider closely monitor the foetus using ultrasound evaluations and nonstress tests to check for signs of distress, such as decreased movement or an increased in amniotic fluid levels.
  2. Regular visits to the doctor: The expectant mother should be seen by her healthcare provider on a regular basis (every week or two) for further monitoring. During these visits, Doppler ultrasounds can be used to track heartbeat changes over time and see if there are any areas of concern. 
  3. Bed rest: Depending on how far along in the pregnancy she is, bed rest may be prescribed for some women after experiencing a late foetal heartbeat in order to promote good health for both baby and mom-to-be.
  4. Regular exercise: Exercise has been shown to help improve overall maternal health while pregnant; however, your healthcare provider must approve all exercise routines before starting them during this period of increased risk associated with delayed heartbeats.
  5. Diet modifications: Eating well-balanced meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables will ensure proper nutrition is being provided to both mother and baby-to-be, which helps promote healthy growth for all involved parties.
    Additionally, adding omega-3 fatty acids into one’s diet (through fish oils) can also help provide additional support during this critical time frame! 

The treatment and management of late foetal heartbeat involve a variety of approaches. 

  1. Maternal health should be assessed to ensure the mother is in good physical condition, which can influence the baby's well-being. 
  2. Medical professionals may recommend monitoring or ultrasound scans to assess whether any development problems are present. 
  3. If any abnormalities are identified, then supportive care such as restorative measures and medication may be implemented to help improve foetal heartbeat and reduce further risks. 
  4. Additional interventions such as cerclage or amniocentesis may be recommended depending on the cause of late foetal heartbeat. 
  5. Finally, doctors will conduct regular checks throughout the pregnancy to monitor progress and take appropriate steps if necessary, to ensure a safe delivery for both mother and baby.

Lifestyle Tips for Pregnant Women with a Late Fetal Heartbeat

As your pregnancy progresses, you will want to pay close attention to your diet and fitness routine. Here are some tips to stay healthy during this special time:

  1. Eat a balanced diet that contains lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein.
  2. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive amounts of caffeine.
  3. Try 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. It can include walking, swimming, and prenatal yoga.
  4. See how your body reacts and rest when you need it. Pregnancy can be taxing on your body and mind, so give yourself time to relax and rejuvenate.

When to Consult a Doctor?

If you are pregnant and your doctor detects a late foetal heartbeat, it is important to consult with them about the best course of action. Generally, doctors will recommend extra monitoring and ultrasounds to ensure the baby is growing and developing normally. 

If any complications arise, such as decreased oxygen levels or other signs of distress in your baby, you should contact your doctor immediately for further evaluation.

You should also discuss any medications or interventions that may be necessary during labour and delivery if complications arise from a late foetal heart rate.


The first foetal heartbeat can be heard around 7 to 8 weeks of pregnancy, and if yours has been detected later than that, it is still completely normal. It's essential to listen to your body during these months and get reassurance from an obstetrician about any concerns you may have regarding the late start of foetal heartbeats. Every pregnancy journey is different and unique, so don't worry if yours isn't following a textbook timeline - it doesn't mean anything bad will happen or there are complications. Stay positive, and talk to your doctor for more information or guidance along this journey!

HexaHealth experts can help you understand foetal heartbeats and potential abnormalities. We provide valuable information and resources on topics such as birth defects, congenital heart defects, foetal arrhythmias, and more. Our team of trained specialists will answer any questions you may have about your baby's heartbeat or potential issues. Additionally, we can connect you with the right specialist for further testing or treatment if needed. HexaHealth is here to ensure that expecting parents get all the best care possible during pregnancy!

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Frequently Asked Questions

How late can the heartbeat start in pregnancy?

The timing of the baby's first heartbeat in pregnancy can vary, but it usually occurs around 6 weeks gestation. In some cases, it may not be detected until 8-10 weeks or later. It is important to note that a delayed heartbeat does not necessarily indicate any problems with the pregnancy.

However, if you experience any other signs and symptoms associated with miscarriage, it is best to contact your doctor right away for an ultrasound examination and further assessment.

What causes a late heartbeat in pregnancy?

Late heartbeat in pregnancy is caused by a number of elements, including an increase in the mother's blood pressure due to hormones released during pregnancy.

Other causes may include low levels of certain nutrients such as calcium or magnesium, maternal stress, and dehydration. In some cases, a late heartbeat may be related to fetal health issues such as increased activity or heart defects.

It is always important to consult with your healthcare provider if you are concerned about any changes in your baby's heartbeat.

When does fetal cardiac activity starts at?

Foetal cardiac activity, or the first heartbeats of a foetus, usually begins around 6 weeks gestation. This is usually detected via ultrasound by measuring foetal heart rate (FHR).

In some pregnancies, the FHR can be seen as early as 5 to 6 weeks and may range from 110-160 beats per minute. At 8 to 10 weeks into pregnancy, the FHR should be consistent within this range.

What is a foetal heartbeat?

A foetal heartbeat is the sound of a baby's heart pumping blood while in the womb. It typically starts around week 6 or 7 after conception and can be heard through an ultrasound.

A normal foetal heartbeat usually ranges from 120-160 beats per minute and will change throughout pregnancy as the baby grows. As the mother enters her third trimester, hearing with a handheld Doppler device becomes easier.

Though hearing it for the first time can be concerning, rest assured that if you're able to hear your baby's heartbeat, all is well!

How will we know when a heartbeat comes in pregnancy?

A pregnant woman will typically be able to detect the baby's heartbeat during her routine prenatal appointment at around 8-12 weeks, generally, the fetal cardiac activity starts at the 8th week.

The doctor or midwife will use a Doppler device to listen for the sound of the foetal heartbeat. It can take some time to locate it, so don't worry if you don't hear anything right away! An ultrasound is often used to confirm that everything looks healthy and that a beating heart is inside.

What is to be done when the baby's heartbeat is not found in Ultrasound?

If a baby's heartbeat is not found in an ultrasound, it could mean that the pregnancy has experienced a miscarriage, or there may be other complications. It is important to seek medical advice immediately and follow up with further tests if necessary.

Depending on the results of these tests, your doctor will advise you on any available treatment options and support for dealing with the situation.

How does a female feel during pregnancy when the heartbeat starts?

A pregnant female may feel a range of emotions when she first hears her baby's heartbeat. It can be a very emotional and special moment that can bring feelings of joy, love, and surprise.

Often, it is an overwhelming experience as the mother realizes that her baby is growing inside her. Some mothers find it reassuring to hear their baby's heart beating in order to know the pregnancy is progressing normally.

Hearing the heartbeat can also remind the mother of how precious life is and provide a sense of connection with their unborn child.

Is no heartbeat at 8 weeks normal?

No heartbeat at 8 weeks is not normal. Consult a doctor as soon as possible to determine the cause and if there are any treatments available. It could be an indication of a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy. Depending on the cause, further tests such as ultrasound may also be recommended to confirm the diagnosis.

Is pregnancy possible without a heartbeat?

No, pregnancy is not possible without a heartbeat. A fetal heartbeat typically appears during the 5th or 6th week of gestation and is an essential sign of life in a developing fetus. Without this vital indication, knowing if the pregnancy was viable and progressing normally would be impossible.

Therefore, for a successful pregnancy to occur, it must remain with a detectable heartbeat throughout its duration.

Can a baby still be alive without a heartbeat?

No, a baby cannot be alive without a heartbeat. A heartbeat is essential for life as it helps to circulate oxygenated blood throughout the body and provide nutrients to organs and tissues.

Without one, cells will quickly die due to a lack of oxygen and other vital substances that are necessary for survival. If an infant's heart stops beating, resuscitation must begin immediately to restore circulation and save its life.

What if there is no heartbeat at 12 weeks?

If the heartbeat is missing at 12 weeks, it may mean that the pregnancy has ended in a miscarriage. It is significant to seek medical advice from your healthcare provider to determine the cause and discuss possible options for treatment.

Does no heartbeat mean miscarriage?

Yes, a lack or late heartbeat in pregnancy usually indicates that a miscarriage has occurred. This is because the absence of a heartbeat typically means that the baby's development has stopped and is no longer viable.

A doctor will be able to confirm this by conducting an ultrasound or other tests. If you are worried about this possibility, speaking to a professional for further advice is important.

What are the signs of silent miscarriage?

The signs of silent miscarriage can vary, but some common ones include no foetal heartbeat detected during an ultrasound, lower back pain or cramping in the abdomen, vaginal bleeding or spotting, and a decrease in pregnancy symptoms such as a loss of nausea and breast tenderness.

Other symptoms may include passing tissue or clots from the vagina. If any of these signs are present, it is important to contact your doctor immediately for further evaluation.

What to expect during your first ultrasound appointment?

At your first ultrasound appointment, you can expect to have an abdominal ultrasound allowing the doctor or technician to view the baby and obtain measurements.

Based on how far along you are in your pregnancy, they may also be able to hear the heartbeat and determine if the pregnancy is viable. The doctor or technician will explain what they observe and answer any questions you may have about your pregnancy.

What devices are used to hear a baby's heartbeat?

Ultrasound devices are commonly used to hear a baby's heartbeat. A doctor or midwife will use a handheld device called a transducer that emits sound waves and detects the echoes of the baby's heart, allowing them to listen to the heartbeat.

Doppler ultrasound instruments are also often used to detect foetal movements and measure blood flow in pregnant women. Fetal stethoscopes may also be used by trained professionals, which amplify the sound of the foetus's heartbeat using an external microphone attached to headphones worn by the mother.

Can you hear the baby's heartbeat with the human ear?

No, the human ear is not sensitive enough to pick up a baby's heartbeat. Hearing a baby's heartbeat is possible using specialist equipment such as an ultrasound scanner or fetal Doppler machine.

These machines use sound waves to detect and amplify the baby's heart rate sound, which can be heard through headphones or speakers.

Can you use apps to hear a baby's heartbeat?

Yes, you can use apps to hear a baby's heartbeat. Several fetal monitoring apps allow expecting parents to listen in on their unborn baby's heartbeat from the comfort of their home. Many of these apps come with a Doppler device that enables them to detect and amplify sound waves from inside the womb.

The device needs to be put on the mother's belly for it to work properly and requires special ultrasound gel so as not to cause any discomfort or harm.

How foetal cardiac activity changes throughout pregnancy?

The foetal cardiac activity begins at around 6 weeks of pregnancy and increases steadily as the pregnancy progresses. By 8-9 weeks, a regular heartbeat can be observed on ultrasound. As the foetus grows, cardiac output increases to support its growth and development until birth.

When heartbeat comes in pregnancy?

A foetal heartbeat can usually be detected by an ultrasound at around 6 weeks of pregnancy. However, in some cases, it may not be detected until later. It's important to note that a lack of heartbeat does not necessarily mean a miscarriage, and additional testing may be needed to confirm the pregnancy's viability.

Updated on : 6 September 2023


Dr. Monika Dubey

Dr. Monika Dubey

MBBS, MS Obstetrics & Gynaecology

21 Years Experience

A specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology with a rich experience of over 21 years is currently working in HealthFort Clinic. She has expertise in Hymenoplasty, Vaginoplasty, Vaginal Tightening, Labiaplasty, MTP (Medical Termination...View More


Shivani Arora

Shivani Arora

BA Journalism and Mass Communication

2 Years Experience

She is an accomplished new-age professional who has interviewed prominent personalities such as Bhaichung Bhutia, G. Sathiyan, Shashi Tharoor, etc. A content writer interested in health communication, graphic desi...View More

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