Throughout your pregnancy, it is important to receive regular, prenatal care, in order to ensure that both you and your baby are safe and healthy.
Prenatal care can help to monitor your baby's growth and development as well as ensure that your own vital signs and emotional health are good.
Prenatal appointments can also help you keep track of your baby's heartbeat. Sometimes, infants can develop abnormal heartbeats, and it is important to try to identify these abnormalities as soon as possible.
Abnormal heartbeats in your baby may suggest an underlying health complication.
How the Heart Works
Your heart is responsible for receiving and pumping blood throughout your body. It is made up of different chambers, including the atria (upper chambers) and ventricles (lower chambers).
Blood flows through these chambers and is then pumped out of the heart and around the body. In order to stimulate a beat, your heart creates small electrical impulses. These impulses travel into the muscle cells in your heart, making them contract. This is what causes your heart to beat.
A normal heartbeat follows a specific pattern and beats at a particular rate, measured in beats per minute.
Heartbeats in Infants
Your baby's heart begins to beat regularly around the 21st day of development. At six weeks, your baby's heart beats at about 100 beats per minute. This increases to 170 beats per minute by the 2nd month.
Your baby's heart rate will continue to fluctuate up and down until he is born. At term, a typical baby's heart beats at about 130 beats per minute. If your baby's heart rate is between 120 and 160 beats per minute at delivery, this is considered normal and healthy.
What is an Abnormal Heartbeat?
An abnormal heartbeat is any type of heartbeat that doesn't follow the normal pattern. Your normal heart pattern is based upon your age and height. Known as an arrhythmia, there are three types of abnormal heartbeats:
- Tachycardia: If you have a tachycardia, your heart is beating too quickly.
- Brachycardia: If you have a brachycardia, your heart is beating too slowly.
- Irregular: If you have an irregular heartbeat, your heart is experiencing extra or skipped beats.
Sometimes, babies develop an abnormal heartbeat. About 1% to 2% of all pregnant women have babies with a fetal arrhythmia. Typically, these arrhythmias resolve themselves, and cause no health problems or side effects. Sometimes, however, fetal arrhythmias indicate the presence of health complications.
Causes of irregular heartbeats in infants often include:
- structural problems with the heart
- genetic disease, especially heart disease
- infections, like chlamydia
- exposure to alcohol, tobacco, or drugs while in utero