What do heart rate and oxygen levels mean?
At first, it might feel a little overwhelming to see your baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels but this data is meant to empower you, not confuse you. We hope this info will shed a little light on what heart rate and oxygen levels mean for you and your baby.
What is a heart rate?
Your heart rate is a measurement of how many times your heart beats per minute. Each beat helps your body circulate blood to all your muscles and organs, as well as carry life sustaining oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Heart rates vary widely just across the adult spectrum based on body size, general health, medical conditions, and activity levels. Infant's heart rates vary as well, but are inherently higher than an adult's heart rate.
What are oxygen levels?
Oxygen levels represent the percentage of oxygen in your blood and are similar between both adults and infants. Ranges of 90-100% blood oxygen is perfectly normal, while levels below 90% can be irregular. It is normal for oxygen levels to fluctuate throughout the day, as well as with activity. If you notice anything unusual in your baby's breathing or skin pigmentation, or if you have other questions about your baby's health, consult your pediatrician for further advice.
Infant Vitals Are Different than Adult Vital Signs
Your baby’s steady heart rate will range from around 120-180 beats per minute when in the womb, to around only 60 beats per minute by the time they are an adult. When your baby is sleeping deeply his or her heart rate will naturally be quite a bit lower than when he/she is sleeping lightly or is fully awake. Often resting heart rate for a one-year-old will be in the low 80’s
As an adult, if you were to hold your breath while being monitored, your oxygen levels may or may not decrease but an infant's oxygen levels are naturally more dynamic. It is normal for an infant's oxygen levels to temporarily dip during everyday activities such as eating or even filling their diaper.
Heart rate and oxygen levels are measured through the use of special tools, like pulse oximeters.
What is pulse oximetry?
Pulse oximetry (SpO2 monitoring) is found in that little red light the doctor clips onto your finger at the doctors office or hospital. It is a non-invasive technology used to both check and actively monitor a person's heart rate and oxygen levels (how much oxygen is in the blood stream). It simply shines a light through your skin, and then measures how much light was absorbed by your red blood cells, which differs based on how much oxygen is bound to those cells. SpO2 is often referred to as “The Fifth Vital Sign” (the first 4 being your pulse, temperature, blood pressure and respiratory rate).
**The pulse oximeter is just a tool; remember, your eyes and ears are your first line of defense.