Fetal Bradycardia During Pregnancy: Why You Must Take This Condition Seriously

Zebah Meraki
·5-min read

The heartbeat of an unborn baby can say a lot about his health. When the average fetal heart rate is between 110 and 160 beats per minute, it indicates a healthy baby. But when it goes below, it can indicate a serious medical condition called fetal bradycardia. Typically, to investigate a fetal bradycardia, second trimester ultrasounds are employed by medical professionals.

But is it dangerous, and if so, can doctors still save your baby? Let’s find out.

What is Fetal Bradycardia?

fetal bradycardia second trimester
fetal bradycardia second trimester

Image source: iStock

When your baby’s heartbeat is slower than it should be at the time of your pregnancy, it is called fetal bradycardia. Typically, fetal heart rate range lies between 110 and 160 BPM (beats per minute). However, if the heart rate is below 110 bpm during week 13 to week 24 of pregnancy, it can be dangerous.

So much so that it increases the risk of miscarriage.

While most miscarriages occur before the second trimester, there have been instances of late miscarriage. So in order to prevent that from happening professionals check for fetal bradycardia during the second trimester ultrasound.

Fetal Bradycardia:Why Does It Happen?

fetal bradycardia second trimester
fetal bradycardia second trimester

Image source: iStock

Fetal bradycardia can occur due of several reasons including the medications, baby size, and even insufficient blood supply to the womb. Let’s take a look at some of the common reasons. bradycardia:

1. Medications

An unborn baby does not take any medication, but the expected mother does. It is one of the common reasons for fetal bradycardia. Some medications recommended to mothers may contain narcotics, which lead to a lower fetal heart rate.

Specifically, the medications that an expert suggests to induce labor such as Cytotec and Pitocin.

2. Uteroplacental insufficiency

A baby’s heart rate gets slower in the second trimester when a sufficient amount of blood doesn’t flow to the placenta. It eventually leads to fetal bradycardia.

3. Polyhydramnios and Oligohydramnios

The amount of amniotic fluid also affects fetal heart rate. While excess amniotic fluid is called polyhydramnios, little amniotic fluid, it is called oligohydramnios. Both of the conditions can lead to this condition.

4. Baby’s size

Ideally, an unborn baby’s head and mother’s pelvis should be in balance. Which means when a baby’s head is too large and it doesn’t fit the mother’s pelvis, it can also lead to fetal bradycardia. Besides, if the baby’s weight is more than nine pounds, there is again a risk of fetal bradycardia.

5. Breech position

If the baby is in the buttocks-first or foot-first position, it can also affect the fetal heart rate. Studies have also found that some first-time mothers who have a tight abdomen or strong core are more likely to experience a breech pregnancy.

Similarly, mothers who have birthed about five or more times are more likely to have a loose womb and may have breech birth subsequently. Either way, to detect fetal bradycardia second trimester ultrasound scans can provide more information to medical professionals.

What Can You Do To Prevent This Condition?

Image source: iStock

Take extra care of your health during pregnancy. Yes, there are no two ways to put it. Eat nutritious and varied foods and adopt a healthy lifestyle. Your baby’s heart requires a nutritious diet to stay healthy, which means more omega-3 fatty acids and essential vitamins and minerals rich in phosphorus and calcium.

As an expecting mum, you should also consume whole grains, lean proteins, and leafy greens. Foods that impact fetal heart development are those rich in calcium, phosphorus, copper, and thiamine to avoid fetal bradycardia second trimester.

More specifically, if you are pregnant, you should regularly have milk, cashew, kidney beans, oats, split peas, and meat.

Don’t forget to avoid unhealthy foods, high cholesterol, and highly caffeinated products in pregnancy.

When Should You Visit the Doctor?

Image source: iStock

There are many causes of fetal bradycardia. Yet, the symptoms of this and other medical conditions can be similar at times. Therefore, it is crucial for you to visit a doctor as soon as you feel any uneasiness. They will give you an accurate and prompt diagnosis and appropriate care.

If you faint very often, you face difficulty while breathing, or you deal with chest pain that remains more than a few minutes – visit a doctor.

Treatment for fetal bradycardia

Your doctor will treat the condition after checking the type of bradycardia, gestational age of your baby, and your overall health.

The treatments your doctor may suggest can be:

  • Medications for the mother to improve fetal heart rate.

  • The doctor will not suggest any treatment but monitor the baby’s heart rate closely.

  • In the case of delivery, treatment may be steroids to promote fetal lung growth.

  • Premature delivery, if the condition demands.

  • Treatment of the specific causes such as fainting or lack of nutrition, among others.

What to Expect After Recovery of Fetal Bradycardia?

Here’s the good news: after the treatment of fetal bradycardia, you can expect a healthy heart for your baby. A study suggests that fetal bradycardia is normal in the third trimester. However, in the second trimester, it requires a proper treatment.

But if you’ve had yourself checked already, there is nothing to worry. Stay happy and maintain a healthy lifestyle and you’ll have a jolly and strong baby in your arms soon.

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