What is a Fetal Non-Stress Test?

A fetal non-stress test is a non-invasive and simple test which is performed in women who are pregnant past 28 weeks of gestation. The test is also called the “non-stress test” because there is no stress put on the fetus during the test. Read on to learn more about the fetal non-stress test.

Non-stress Test – How is it Performed?

The test involves the attachment of one belt to the mother’s abdomen, which measures the fetal heart rate, and another belt to measure the contractions. The reactivity of the heart rate and movement of the fetus are measured for 20 – 30 minutes. If the baby does not move, then that does not mean that there is a problem as the baby might just be asleep. In such cases, a nurse can use a “buzzer” to wake the baby from sleep or sugary beverages, such as juice, are given to the mother to perk up the baby.

Non-stress Test – Why is it Performed?

This non-stress test is performed in the following cases:

  • When there is a question as to whether the placental function is disrupted.
  • If you are overdue.
  • You sense that the baby is not moving as frequently as usual.
  • If your pregnancy is a high risk one.

This test is a wonderful way to find out if the baby is not receiving proper oxygen supply due to umbilical cord or placental problems. It mainly indicates some type of fetal distress. This test does not pose any risk or side effects to the baby.

When is a NST performed?

This test is performed after 28 weeks of gestation because before 28 weeks, the fetal growth is not enough to respond to this non-stress test.

What does the NST look for?

This fetal non-stress test looks for the following:

  • The main goal is to measure the heart rate of the fetus with response to the movements as well.
  • Healthy babies respond with an increased heart rate, especially during times of movement.
  • The main reasons behind the test are to see that an adequate oxygen supply is received by the baby for fetal movement, and the heart rate is within the normal ranges.
  • If the oxygen levels are not normal, then the fetus does not respond properly, which can be caused by problems with the umbilical cord or placenta.
  • If the non-stress test is reactive, then this is an indication that the blood flow and the oxygen supply are adequate.
  • If this test is non-reactive, then the mother may need additional tests to find out whether the result is due to poor oxygenation or other reasons for the fetal non-reactivity. These results can be due to certain maternal prescription or non-prescription medications or changes in maternal sleep patterns.

Therefore, a fetal non-stress test is very useful in monitoring the health of your baby.

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