Pregnancy can feel like a rollercoaster filled with plenty challenges and surprises, especially if you’re a first timer.
We know that when it comes to your baby’s development, you’re naturally curious and you can’t help but have questions at every turn.
Let’s discuss a topic that captures the interest of expectant moms everywhere: the puzzle of the fetal heartbeat – Can it really disappear and reappear?
Can fetal heartbeat disappear and reappear?
Of course, it is very possible for fetal heartbeat to come and go during pregnancy. But it isn’t very common, and in many cases, it can be managed meticulously.
There are several reasons why this happens – we will discuss them in subsequent sub-section
Causes of fetal heartbeart disappearing and reappearing
There could be various reasons why your baby’s heartbeat stop and start again. Below are some reasons why this happen;
1. Fetal arrhythmia
This is one of the leading causes of a disappearing and reappearing fetal heartbeart. It is associated with irregular rhythm of the baby’s heart beat. Factors that contribute to this can include;
- Maternal consumption of substances like caffeine
- Excessive thyroid hormone secretion by the mother (Maternal Hyperthyroidism)
- Fetal anemia (reduced oxygen in the blood)
- Fetal distress
- Fetal infection
- Fever in the mother
- Infection in the mother’s uterus
2. Human error
This may include improper use of the ultrasound device or lack of experience in identifying the fetal heartbeat. It’s no doubt that the person performing the ultrasound or heart rate monitoring has a significant impact.
Less experienced professionals may struggle to find or lose the beat during the sessions, seeming as though it’s coming and going. Consequently, the results could be misinterpreted. And a mistake in interpreting these results could lead to the perception of an intermittent heartbeat.
3. Awkward positioning of the baby
The baby’s position might make it harder for the ultrasound probe or Doppler to pick up the heartbeat precisely, causing it to appear and disappear.
When the baby is positioned in a way that their body or limbs obstruct the path of the ultrasound waves, it can lead to weaker or inconsistent signals.
Moreover, as the baby moves around, their position might change in a way that will impact the ability to detect the heartbeat clearly, which may give the impression of a disappearing and reappearing one.
4. Tilted uterus
Also known as a retroverted uterus, is a normal change of uterine position where womb tips backwards at the cervix instead of forward. A tilted uterus might make detecting the fetal heartbeat more difficult especially during the early stages of pregnancy when the womb is still small and located low in the pelvis.
The uterus’ position could obstruct the clear path of the ultrasound waves, thereby affecting beat detection. In fact, the backward tilt of the uterus could also mean that the the baby’s beat has to pass through more tissues to reach the Doppler device or ultrasound probe.
And this may weaken the signals, causing it to appear intermittently. While a retroverted uterus may be a cause of fetal heartbeat to disappear and reappear, it generally does not impact pregnancy or delivery. It usually resolves itself as the pregnancy progresses and the uterus grows larger and moves upward into the abdominal cavity.
5. Plus-sized mothers
In chubby or overweight mothers, the additional body tissues can interfere with the ultrasound waves and make detecting fetal heartbeat more challenging.
Mostly, hand-held Doppler devices, which are often used in prenatal appointments, may have more difficulty penetrating the additional abdominal fat tissues to detect the beat.
Signals gets unclear too, and it’s because the extra adipose tissue in plus-sized women can scatter ultrasound waves and weaken the signals, which may cause it to appear intermittent.
Indeed, fetus in plus-sized mothers may be positioned deeper in the abdomen, which will also make it harder to consistently detect the heartbeat with a handheld Doppler.
6. Baby movements during monitoring
As the baby moves around in the womb, it can be challenging for the monitoring equipment to maintain a stable connection with the heart rate.
Also, baby changing position could affect the ultrasound waves’ path, or the monitor’s ability to pick up the beat. If the baby is in distress too, it can cause the heart rate to drop temporarily and then recover, giving the impression that the heartbeat has disappeared and reappeared.
7. Faulty fetal monitoring equipment
Malfunctioning monitoring equipment may generate inaccurate readings or fail to maintain a stable connection, that could potentially give a misleading perception of baby’s heart beat stopping and continuing.
Additionally, if the equipment is not functioning correctly, it can also lose the connection to the fetal heart rate intermittently, which will lead to gaps in the readings and create the impression of an inconsistent beat. It will go a long way to generate false alarms which will affect the test.
These are just potential reasons, and it’s crucial to consult with a medical professional if you notice irregularities in the baby’s heart beat.
Symptoms of Miscarriage or fetal heartbeat stopping
If you’re consistently checking on your baby’s beat then be mindful that symptoms of it stopping can be slightly difficult to identify without any medical assistance. This is because they may not produce clearer signs for you to know.
However, some indicators include;
- Decreased fetal movement: Normally, you should feel your baby’s movements every other day. When you’ve not heard or felt its movements over a long period of time, then you need to check with your doctor immediately.
- Vaginal bleeding: While this may not always indicate a stopped heart beat, it can be a symptom associated with complications during pregnancy.
- Cramps: Heavy bleeding accompanied by cramps can be a common sign of miscarriage and may also be related to a stopped fetal beat.
- White-pink mucus or fluid discharge: Discharge other than clear, colourless fluid or light spotting is abnormal and requires medical attention.
- Contractions: Regular pains and tightening sensations that come every 5 to 20 minutes could indicate a miscarriage.
- Dizziness or faintness: Sudden dizziness, faintness, or a rapid decrease in blood pressure may as well indicate a problem.
These symptoms do not necessarily confirm that baby’s heart rate has stopped. But they are issues of medical concern. So go ahead and talk to your doctor immediately you notice them.
Can an ultrasound be wrong about no heartbeat?
Yes, just as explained above on faulty fetal monitoring equipment, an ultrasound can occasionally be wrong about detecting no beat, especially during early pregnancy when the fetus is still small.
Factors that could lead to inaccurate readings include;
If the ultrasound is conducted too early – before seven weeks of pregnancy, the chances of finding a detectable beat are lower. During this stage, the embryo is still tiny, which can make it challenging for the equipment to pick up the heartbeat.
The ultrasound technique
The type of ultrasound also matters. Transvaginal ultrasounds tend to be more accurate, and even earlier in pregnancies, than abdominal ultrasounds because of how close they are to the womb.
The accuracy of detecting a heart beat can also depend on the skills and experience of the healthcare professional conducting the ultrasound
What should you do if fetal heartbeat disappears?
If you suspect signs of baby’s beat disappearing, you should take the followings steps:
- Stay calm: Try as much as possible not to panick. Panicking may not help the situation; instead stay calm on focus on the subsequent steps.
- Talk to your doctor: In the shortest time possible, reach out either to your doctor or midwife and discuss with them.
- Schedule a follow-up appointment: By every means, your doctor will recommend a a follow up appointment for another ultrasound to confirm and detect it again.
- Ask questions: Talk to your doctor about the possible reasons for the disappearance and inquire on the further actions that might be necessary. Additionally, request for transvaginal ultrasound if they used the Doppler’s initially. Doppler’s can easily miss a heartbeat, and so the transvaginal would be a reconfirmation.
- Heed to doctor’s advise: Follow the recommendations given by your doctor which may include additional testing or monitoring to ensure your baby’s health and well-being.
Even though it isn’t very common, it’s still possible for the foetus’ or fetal heartbeat to disappear and reappear, come and go, or stop and continue in pregnancy.
I understand how panicking this experience is, but keep in mind that these cases do not automatically mean the end of pregnancy.
If your baby’s heartbeat disappeared, it’s advised that you stay calm, and contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Schedule follow-up appointments as recommended, ask any necessary questions for clarification, and follow all the healthcare provider’s advice.
In many instances, with the right medical assistance and monitoring, pregnancies experiencing this issue can continue successfully.
However, if by every means, including waiting for about a couple of weeks to retake the scan, or trying the tranvaginal ultrasounds, heartbeat couldn’t reappear, then you may have lost it. Undergo a D&C procedure to remove it.
But hey, that isn’t the end, you’re not alone, trust me, it’s going to work out on your next.