What You Need to Know About Non-stress Testing During Pregnancy

For pregnant mothers, prenatal visits to the doctor are vital activities that should not be skipped.

During your trips to the OB, you will be monitored and ordered several examinations to make sure your baby is at its optimal health. A nonstress test is one of the procedures that your doctor might require during one of these prenatal consultations. Since not all pregnant women are expected to undergo this testing, you might be wondering why it is needed and for who it is for.

What is a nonstress test?

A non-stress testing, also known as a fetal nonstress test or fetal heart rate monitoring, is one of the standard prenatal procedures done to keep the baby’s health in check. It is a non-invasive test that is usually performed in pregnant women who are over 28 weeks in their pregnancy. The procedure allows the doctor to monitor your baby’s heart rate in response to his fetal movements. However, mothers need not worry since “no stress” is placed on the baby during the entire process.

By monitoring the baby’s heart rate as to how it responds to his movements, the doctor will be able to check on his oxygen supply. Usually, the heart is supposed to beat faster when the baby is active, usually later in pregnancy. Apparently, a nonstress test rules out the possibility of fetal hypoxia, a condition where the fetus does not get adequate oxygen, that leads to a disruption in the heart rate.

Am I eligible for a nonstress test?

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A fetal nonstress test is often ordered for pregnant women with specific complications during their pregnancy, which includes gestational diabetes, or diabetes that develops during pregnancy; preeclampsia, or developing high blood pressure while pregnant; or when you are ordered for another diagnostic test called amniocentesis. Aside from these, you are likely to get a non-stress testing if your baby measures smaller than his gestational age or if you feel like he isn’t very active inside your tummy. This is also required for those who are already past their due date, usually lasting longer than 40 weeks. A nonstress test is done within the third trimester of pregnancy, generally from the 28th week on.

What should I expect from a nonstress test?

During a fetal heart rate monitoring, you will be asked to lie on a reclining chair, where your blood pressure is monitored at regular intervals throughout the test. Your doctor or healthcare provider will then strap two belts with monitors across your abdomen. One belt will be recording the fetal heart rate while the other, which is called a toco transducer, will be measuring any contractions in the uterus. You may be asked to press a button when you feel your baby move or kick; this way your doctor can check for any changes in your baby’s heartbeat during the movement.

There may be times when the baby does not move around, which probably means he is sleeping. A nurse may try to wake him up by ringing a bell or using an acoustic stimulator. You may also be asked to move or rub your belly to stimulate your baby. Typically, the test only lasts up to 20 minutes, yet it can extend for another 20 minutes especially if the baby is asleep or inactive.

What do the results mean?

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A reactive result, wherein the baby’s heart rate increases to a certain level of activity, indicates that blood flow and oxygen supply is adequate. Meanwhile, a nonreactive result, wherein the baby’s heartbeat stays more or less the same throughout the test, may result from the baby being inactive or asleep during the nonstress test. In such cases, additional testing may be required to further check the condition of your baby.

Being ordered to undergo a nonstress test is not to be a cause of worry, as the procedure will help keep tabs on your baby’s condition and make sure that he gets the best health possible.

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