If you’re trying for a baby, it’s natural to be hyper-alert to any changes in your body. One might be that you suddenly feel a heartbeat in your stomach.
Interestingly, it could mean you’re pregnant. Not because you can feel the baby’s pulse but because yours gets stronger during pregnancy.
However, before jumping to conclusions, it’s important to consider other possible causes. A pulsing sensation in your belly can also be attributed to eating a large meal, dehydration, or even an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Some people can also feel it when lying down with their legs raised.
To help you figure out what’s going on, we’ve covered all the possible causes and how to tell which one is affecting you.
Possible Reasons Why You Can Feel a Heartbeat in Your Stomach
Feeling a pulsing in your belly can be alarming or exciting, depending on whether or not you’re trying to conceive. However, the sensation is more common than you might think.
Here are the top 5 reasons why you could be sensing a heartbeat in your stomach:
Feeling a pulse in your stomach is a symptom of pregnancy, which you can confirm with a home pregnancy test. Strangely, though, if you are pregnant, that heartbeat you’re feeling doesn’t belong to your baby. It’s yours.
The sensation comes from your abdominal aorta, which is the main artery that carries blood to your abdomen, pelvis, and legs. During pregnancy, your blood volume will increase by 50%. This will make the blood flow through your abdomen more noticeable.
However, your blood volume won’t increase much until your second trimester. So, feeling a heartbeat in your abdomen is rarely a sign of early pregnancy. It’s more likely that you’re just paying closer attention to any movement, pulses, or sensations in your stomach area.
Weirdly, this hypersensitivity can also continue after you’ve given birth. So gas bubbles and normal digestive functions could feel like tiny kicks for years.
After eating, your body will pump a lot of blood into your abdomen to help digest your food. This extra blood can make the pulse through your abdominal aorta more apparent. It’s also the reason some people feel cold after a big meal.
Keep track of when you’re feeling the heartbeat. If you notice a pattern of it appearing after meals, it’s just your body fueling your digestive system.
When you lie down with your knees raised, it makes the pulse of your abdominal aorta more obvious. If you have low body fat and look closely, you may also see your stomach move with the heartbeat.
To check if this is what’s causing the pulsing, stand up. It should disappear right away.
When you’re dehydrated, your heart has to work harder to pump your blood. This can make the pulse in your belly more pronounced.
Drink some water and see if it goes away. If it does, the cause is likely dehydration, and you should plan to drink more often. Setting alarms, using an app, or keeping a large water bottle nearby are all great ways to do this.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
Sometimes, a strong pulse in your stomach could indicate an abdominal aortic aneurysm. This is a dangerous condition where the wall of your aorta thins and balloons out. This makes it prone to rupture and life-threatening bleeding if it does burst.
Developing the condition is more likely if you:
- Are over 50.
- Have a family history of abdominal aortic aneurysms. This makes you 12 times more likely to develop one.
- Are male.
- Have had a recent traumatic injury.
- Have high cholesterol.
- Have high blood pressure.
- Have emphysema.
- Have a high BMI.
Abdominal aneurysms take years to develop, and you’ll experience very few symptoms while they grow. These include:
- A pulse in your stomach.
- Lower back pain.
- Abdominal pain or discomfort.
When to Worry About a Pulse in Your Stomach
Abdominal aortic aneurysms affect around 200,000 people in the U.S. every year, so they’re fairly common.
You should report feeling a pulse in your abdomen to your doctor if:
- It doesn’t go away when you stand up.
- It’s noticeable even if you haven’t eaten in a while.
- You can still feel it when you are well-hydrated.
- You are also experiencing lower back or abdominal pain.
- You have a family history of aneurysms.
- You have several risk factors.
- It is causing you stress or anxiety.
Testing for an abdominal aneurysm is not invasive; diagnosis usually involves an ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan. Treatment ranges from yearly monitoring to surgery. You may also need to make some lifestyle changes, like losing weight or quitting smoking.
Can You Feel a Fetal Heartbeat Through Your Stomach?
No, it’s not possible to feel your baby’s heartbeat through your belly. There’s just too much amniotic fluid and tissue in the way.
If you can feel a pulsing in your bump, it’s yours. To check, you can count the number of beats per minute. Your baby’s heart rate should be between 110 and 160 per minute. Yours should be between 60 and 100.
Can You See the Baby’s Heartbeat Through the Stomach?
No, you cannot see your baby’s heartbeat through your stomach. Any pulsing you notice comes from your abdominal aorta. This is the blood vessel that takes blood from your heart to your lower body. It works extra hard during pregnancy, which makes it more noticeable.
Can You Hear a Baby’s Heartbeat Through Your Stomach?
From 38 weeks on, your partner may be able to hear your baby’s heartbeat through your stomach. They can do this by placing their ear on your belly in a very quiet room. If they can identify a faint, fast beat, it could belong to your baby.
However, there’s lots going on in there. So they may also hear:
- Your pulse through your abdominal aorta – This will be slower than your baby’s, at 60 to 100 bpm.
- The pulse through the umbilical cord – This is a fast pulsing accompanied by a swoosh, swoosh sound.
- The gurgles of your digestive system.
They could use a stethoscope or homemade cone-shaped device to make things easier.
Important – Don’t panic about your baby’s health if your partner can’t hear anything. It’s a tricky skill that takes practice and training.
How Early Can a Heartbeat Start in Pregnancy?
Your baby’s heart will start beating around 5 weeks into the pregnancy. At this point, it’s incredibly tiny and can only be picked up by vaginal ultrasound.
But don’t worry if you have an early scan and don’t see a pulse. You may have your dates slightly wrong, and the heartbeat will appear in one to two more weeks.