It is common to have a prenatal appointment around your 12th week of pregnancy and your midwife or doctor will check for the baby’s heartbeat. This is generally done with the Doppler that is hand-held. This tool uses ultrasound waves to spot your baby’s heartbeat. But it can happen that the doctor is unable to find a heartbeat at this appointment. Is this dangerous?
Is It Dangerous to Have No Heartbeat at 12 Weeks?
It may not be dangerous. There are pregnancies where the heartbeat doesn’t show until the 14th or 16th week. Because it can also be dangerous, it is important to consult with your OB. The following are some explanations for the missing heartbeat.
1. Your Due Date May Be Off
If you weren’t positive when your last menstruation came, or your date is not calculated from ultra sound, chances are you may not be as far along as you think. This would make the heartbeat very difficult to hear. In fact, this is the most common cause for missing heartbeat at 12 weeks pregnant.
2. The Position of Your Uterus
Women who have a tilted uterus may have a harder time finding the heartbeat at 12 weeks. With a tilted uterus, it can be difficult to get the Doppler aimed in the right direction to capture the heartbeat. This doesn’t necessarily mean there is a problem; it is just different.
3. The Position of Baby
No heartbeat at 12 weeks? The baby position can be blamed. This early in the pregnancy, the baby is very small. Because of this, it can be very difficult to find, depending on where the baby is in the uterus. This is because the Doppler must hit the baby in a precise manner in order for the heartbeat to be found. This can take a lot of patience and at times some luck to catch the baby on Doppler.
4. Mother’s Size
Women with a high BMI, especially those that carry a lot of weight around their middle, will have a difficult time finding the baby. This is because there is extra padding between the Doppler and the baby. If you or your practitioner is worried about the baby, a transvaginal ultrasound can be done.
5. Possible Miscarriage
There are times that the reason why there is no heartbeat is that you are in the process of a miscarriage. This can be true even if you don’t have any signs of early miscarriage. It can also be the sign of a blighted ovumwhich can cause pregnancy symptoms.
What Can Be Done?
If there is no heartbeat at 12 weeks appointment, you will often hear that you should wait to try again in a week or so. Depending on your condition, your doctor may decide that an ultrasound for the next day is best. If that is their request, try not to be upset. This is a common occurrence with results that aren’t necessarily bad.
Try to stay calm. Worrying can be negative to your pregnancy, so if you can think of something else, try to. Make sure to let your doctor know how you feel.
Could It Really Be a Miscarriage?
If any of the following symptoms occur, you should contact your doctor immediately or go to an emergency room to make sure the baby is healthy.
- Back pain that is mild to severe, generally worse than menstrual cramps
- White-mucus discharge
- Weight loss
- Real contractions with progression, 5-20 minutes apart
- Bright red or brown bleeding without cramps or with them. Please be aware that as much as thirty percent of pregnancies can experience bleeding and still be healthy.
- Tissue and clotting material that is discharged
- Symptoms of pregnancy suddenly decreasing
A miscarriage that has been overlooked, or a silent miscarriage, can also be called missed abortion. This can happen at any time prior to the 20th week and is when the fetus dies but the body doesn’t know and doesn’t expel the tissues. Hormones may still be released by the placenta, creating pregnancy symptoms in some women. Others may have noticeable symptoms of loss. It is often diagnosed at a doctor's visit.
How Is a Miscarriage Diagnosed?
There may be a few different tests your health care providers give you. They may ask to do a pelvic exam to see if you are dilated.
- Ultrasound. With an ultrasound, your doctor checks for a heartbeat to make sure the fetus is developing normally. If a diagnosis isn’t made, you may be asked back for another ultrasound.
- Blood test. Your doctor may check for hCG or human chorionic gonadotropin and compare it to previous levels. A change or drop may indicate a problem. They may see if you are anemic which could be caused by blood loss.
- Tissue test. Another thing they will test is if you have passed tissue, they can send it to a lab to see if a miscarriage happened. This can help determine if your symptoms are from another cause.
- Chromosomal test. If this isn’t your first miscarriage, your doctor may ask for more blood work to determine whether or not you and your partner have risk factors that are behind the miscarriages.
Other Mothers' Experience
“This is my second pregnancy and my doctor had a hard time locating the baby’s heartbeat every visit during my first trimester. In fact, it even happened a few times during my second trimester as well. He took a quick ultrasound later just to make sure all was well. Now I’m 35 weeks along with a healthy boy! The Doppler can occasionally have hard time finding the heartbeat, especially if the baby is in a weird position. If this happens, get an ultrasound right away.”
“There was no heartbeat at 12 weeks for my pregnancy. They then did an ultrasound and couldn’t find it and followed with an internal ultrasound. There was still a sac but not fetus. They told me it looked to have stopped growing at week ten and my body absorbed it. There weren’t any symptoms of trouble but I did notice a decrease in my pregnancy symptoms somewhere between weeks 10 and 12.”