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All About Baby’s Heartbeat with Dr. Penman, Consultant Fetal Medicine Specialist in Kent

Early pregnancy can be a time full of all sorts of emotions, from excitement and happiness to anxiety and worry. You’re probably worrying about miscarriage (an estimated 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage), baby’s general health, and possibly even your own health.

Dr. Penman understands the importance of reassurance in early pregnancy. Detecting a baby’s heartbeat is an important milestone in any pregnancy journey as the risk of miscarriage after detecting baby’s heartbeat drops to around 10%, according to Tommy’s.

Dr. Penman offers baby scans as early as 6 weeks. That means, all being well, you can have reassurance very early on in pregnancy.

In this article, we’ll explain more about when you can detect baby’s heartbeat and how detecting the baby’s heartbeat reduces the risk of miscarriage. We’ll also give you some more information on early pregnancy including some early pregnancy symptoms. We’ll cover the following topics

  • 5 takeaways about baby’s heartbeat
  • How early can Dr. Penman detect baby’s heartbeat?
  • What happens if Dr. Penman can’t detect baby’s heartbeat?
  • How many weeks pregnant am I?
  • What are some early pregnancy symptoms?
Only have 1 minute! Here are 5 takeaways about baby’s heartbeat
How early can Dr. Penman detect baby’s heartbeat?

Dr. Penman can detect baby’s heartbeat as early as 6 weeks. It’s best to come towards the end of the 6th week to ensure the best chances of detecting baby’s heartbeat. See ‘how many weeks pregnant am I?’ for more information on accurately calculating your pregnancy gestation.

Dr. Penman detects baby’s heartbeat by seeing it on the scan monitor. You may even be able to hear baby’s heartbeat briefly too. Here’s a video showing an early pregnancy scan and baby’s heartbeat

What happens if Dr. Penman can’t detect baby’s heartbeat?

Particularly in early pregnancy scans, dates can be wrong and you may think you’re further on in pregnancy than you are (as can often happen). If you come too early for a scan, it won’t be possible to detect the baby’s heartbeat. It’s best to wait until the end of the 6-week mark to have the best chance of detecting the heartbeat.

Sadly, though, it’s also possible that baby has died or not developed and this is why Dr. Penman is unable to detect a heartbeat. It’s estimated that 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. If this is the case, Dr. Penman will support you and, of course, answer all questions you may have and help you plan the next steps if you wish to do so.

You can also find lots of support online for people experiencing a miscarriage including:

Tommy’s miscarriage support

Miscarriage Association

What affects the quality of my baby scan images?

Dr. Penman always tries his best to get you the great scan images that you’re after. He knows it’s important to you to see your baby before they’re born and have great images of them to remember for years to come.

There are, however, some things that can affect the quality of the images you get. Here are a few of them:

  • Baby’s position
  • Number of babies
  • Maternal BMI

Sometimes, your little one just isn’t in the right position to get the best scan images possible, or they’re too cramped next to their siblings if you’re expecting multiples. Often, if the mother has a raised BMI, this can decrease scan image quality too.

But, rest assured, Dr. Penman will make sure he tries his utmost to get you the best ultrasound images he can.

How many weeks pregnant am I?

When planning pregnancy scans it’s important to know how many weeks pregnant you are.

Dr. Penman’s due date calculator will estimate how many weeks pregnant you are based on the first day of your last menstrual period. It will also tell you the date range of when you should plan to have the different pregnancy scans, including early pregnancy scans and baby gender scans.

What are some early pregnancy symptoms?

Maybe you’ve had a positive pregnancy test, or maybe you’re hoping for that positive and spotting some early pregnancy symptoms.

Early pregnancy symptoms vary from woman to woman and pregnancy to pregnancy. Some common symptoms include:

Missed period

A missed period is one of the classic symptoms of early pregnancy. Nowadays, there are some very sensitive pregnancy tests that claim to detect pregnancy as early as 6 days before your period is due. Nevertheless, for the most accurate results, you should take a home pregnancy test a week after your period is due. If you have an irregular cycle, try taking a home pregnancy test at least 35 days after the start of your last period.
This is because, sometimes, you can get a ‘false negative’ – a home pregnancy test that reads negative even though you are pregnant. This can happen if you test too early as there isn’t enough hcG (the ‘pregnancy hormone’) in your urine yet.
It’s worth remembering, though, that a missed period can be misleading and doesn’t necessarily mean you’re pregnant. You can miss a period for a variety of reasons, including having an irregular cycle, stress and an intense exercise regime. If you’ve missed a period but had a negative home pregnancy test a week after your expected period, Dr Penman recommends you wait a few more days and test again. If the test is still negative and you’ve not started your period, please consult your GP or arrange a private gynaecology consultation with Dr Penman by calling Helen (Dr Penman’s PA) on 07880701732.

Sore breasts

The hormonal changes in early pregnancy can make your breasts feel sore and swollen. This symptom should wear off as the pregnancy progresses and your body adjusts to the changing hormone levels. In the meantime, ensuring you have a supportive bra and wear loose-fitting clothes can help deal with the discomfort.


It’s thought that the rapidly changing hormones in pregnancy cause the nausea/vomiting we all know as one of the common symptoms of early pregnancy. Of course, not everyone will experience it but, if you do, it may start as early as week 6. Usually, the nausea subsides by the second trimester but can continue all the way until delivery (although this is rare).
You may be very unlucky and experience severe pregnancy nausea and vomiting. This is called hyperemesis gravidarum. This can cause extreme weight loss and dehydration. If your nausea/vomiting is severe and causing you to lose weight and become dehydrated, you should consult your doctor.


One of the early signs you’re pregnant is tiredness. Whilst it may come as a surprise that it’s not just late pregnancy that is accompanied by tiredness, it’s not unusual to be more tired than usual in the early stages of pregnancy too. Your body is going through many changes as it lays down the building blocks for a baby and pregnancy and this can really take it out of you.

Unusual tastes

Food tasting unusual or a metallic taste in your mouth is one of the more unusual signs you’re pregnant. This is likely due to hormone changes in pregnancy and can lead to food aversions as foods you eat taste different to what you’re used to