Keeping Baby Healthy: Non-Stress Test & Biophysical Profile

During your prenatal care the doctor may decide to run some tests to make sure your baby is thriving.  Two of the most common tests that are performed are called the non-stress test and biophysical profile.  These tests may be run either at your doctor’s office or at the hospital.

Fetal Non-Stress Test

The Fetal Non-Stress test is a simple, non-invasive test performed during pregnancy over 28 weeks gestation. The test is entitled, “non-stress” due to the fact that no stress is placed on the fetus during the test. The test involves attaching two belts to the mother’s abdomen to measure fetal heart rate and measure contractions. Movement of the baby, heart rate of the baby and contractions are measured for 20-30 minutes.  With a well-baby, fetal heart rate will accelerate during this time indicating “well being” for the baby. NSTs (non-stress tests) are typically ordered 2 x/ week.

Non-stress tests are typically ordered for women that are going over their due date.  Also, medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetics, thyroid disorder will direct NSTs starting between 28 to 32 weeks.  Fetal indications for NSTs include twin pregnancy, extra amniotic fluid, low amniotic fluid, baby measuring small for gestational age and suspected fetal growth restriction.

Biophysical Profile

The Biophysical profile is another way to determine your baby’s well-being.  An ultrasound is performed by a technician or physician while looking at 5 different factors for fetal well-being.  These include:  amniotic fluid, fetal movement, fetal tone, fetal breathing and fetal heart rate.  A scoring system is given which will allow the obstetrician to determine how to manage the pregnancy.  BPPs are typically ordered 1x/ week OR after a non-reactive NST.

A simple inexpensive way for a patient to determine fetal well-being is called the “fetal kick count”.  Lying down on her left side, the pregnant mother will try to count 10 movements (kicks) over a 2 hour period when the fetus is most active. Once 10 movements have been obtained counting stops.  Most women will find that they can stop counting within 20 minutes. A reason for lack of movement may be fetal sleep.  If fetal movement DOES NOT pick up contact your doctor.

The purpose of fetal testing is for the pregnant woman to make sure that they end up with a healthy baby!


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