There is much debate surrounding the actual moment when life forms inside the pregnant woman. Most of the debate is centered around the issue of abortion, and since politicians play up the fact that life is formed before the abortion is administered, it can be difficult to determine whether or not their political stance is based on science or on the viewpoints of their potential supporters. Politics aside, it is helpful for pregnant women to know where their baby should be in terms of development as gestation progresses. Specifically, seeing your baby’s heartbeat can be one of the most powerful ultrasound appointments you will have. While you fully believe that you are pregnant, it truly becomes a reality when you see such a basic life process carried out inside of you on the ultrasound.

Even though the rest of your baby will still look largely undecipherable, you will be able to see his or her heartbeat on the ultrasound six weeks into the pregnancy. On average, baby’s heart rates at this first sighting are approximately 100 beats per minute. This will increase slowly as your pregnancy progresses, and most babies even out at a rate of up to 160 beats per minute at the end of the third trimester. If you are at your ultrasound appointment at six weeks and do not see a heartbeat in the ultrasound, don’t panic. The purpose of this appointment is also to make sure your due date was calculated correctly, so there is a slight chance your baby is not actually six weeks old yet. Your doctor will re-evaluate his or her age based on the gestational sac and size of the fetus. Even if your appointment is just a day or two before the six-week mark, a heartbeat might not be visible.

If your doctor determines that your baby is in fact six weeks old and there is no heartbeat, he or she might have you come in for another appointment in a day or two, but you might need to discuss the possibility of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. Luckily, this is rare, and it shouldn’t be something you’re worried about unless it becomes a reality.

Seeing your baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound for the very first time will give you and your partner chills. It’s an appointment you should look forward to, as it’s a once-in-a-lifetime milestone for you, your partner, and your baby.

Source: Grace Chung et al: Obstetrician-Gynecologists Beliefs About When Pregnancy Begins. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Volume 206 Issue 2 pp. 132 February 2012