Check the baby
Check how fast the baby’s heart beats
Healthy signs Baby’s heartbeat is between 120 and 160 beats a minute.
Wa r nin g sig ns A baby whose heartbeat is slower than 120 or faster than 160 beats
a minute may be having trouble. A baby whose heartbeat is slower than 100 or
faster than 180 needs medical help.
Follow these steps to check how fast the baby’s heart beats:
1. Use a clock or a watch with a second hand,
as you would for checking the mother’s pulse
(see page 120). If you do not have a clock or
watch, compare the baby’s heartbeat to your
own pulse when you are resting and calm. (Or make a timer out of
homemade materials; see page 443.) The baby’s heartbeat should be
about 2 times as fast as your pulse.
2. Count the number of heartbeats in one minute. If you have trouble watching
the clock and counting at the same time, have someone tell you when to start
and stop counting.
If the baby’s heartbeat seems very slow, feel the mother’s pulse in her wrist
while you listen. If the mother’s pulse and the heartbeat you hear are the
same, you are hearing the mother’s heartbeat by mistake.
3. Keep a record of where you found the heartbeat and how fast it beats.
If the baby’s heartbeat is above 160, wait a few minutes and check it again.
Sometimes the heartbeat is faster when the baby moves. If the heartbeat stays
above 160 (especially if it is 180 or more) the mother may have an infection.
Check if she has a fast pulse or a fever. If she does, see page 179.
If the baby’s heartbeat is slow, the baby may be in danger. If the heartbeat is
between 100 and 120 beats a minute, try moving the baby a little from the outside.
The baby may be sleeping. Check if the heartbeat is faster when the baby is awake.
If the heartbeat is slower than 100 beats a minute, get medical help.
The baby is in danger! At a hospital the woman may be able to get a cesarean
surgery to help the baby to be born early.
Note: A quiet heartbeat does not mean that the baby is weak. It just
means that the baby’s chest or back is far from your ear, or that the
mother’s belly is hard to hear through. For example, the wall of the
belly might be thick if the mother is fat.
A Book for Midwives (2010)