Fetal Non-Stress Test-Is Baby Ok?

Once a woman has experienced the feeling of her baby bouncing around inside of her womb, she looks for that movement to occur frequently. When it doesn't happen it can cause fear and concern. Babies do sleep in the womb, and thus a lack of movement may just be a sleeping baby. Sometimes there are other causes for a slowing down or lack of movement. As the pregnancy progresses and baby has less and less room to flip around in, the movement naturally changes. Slower, more deliberate and expansive movements are the norm. Still, there is movement.

A Non-Invasive Test For Movement

A fetal non-stress test, or NST, is a non-invasive, simple test which is performed in pregnancies that are over 28 weeks gestation. Before that time, the baby is not developed enough to respond to the test protocol. The reason it is called a non-stress test is because it is both non-invasive and does not stress the baby in any way. It is performed if there has been a noticeable slowing down of movement within the womb. It is also used when a woman is overdue her delivery date or if she is considered high risk. If the doctor suspects the placenta is not working properly or there is some other problem that can be detected without invasion, then an NST is performed. This test can help the doctor determine if the baby is receiving enough oxygen or if there is some other type of distress. This test does not pose any risk or side effects to either mother or baby.

Is Baby Doing Okay?

The primary purpose of this test is to measure the heart rate of the baby in response to its own movements. When a healthy baby moves, its heart rate goes up with the movement and when the baby rests, the heart rate comes down again. The purpose of the NST is to determine that the baby is receiving adequate oxygen to move and keep the heart within accepted ranges. If oxygen is too low, then the levels decrease. Most frequently, the problem with low oxygen levels lies in difficulties with the placenta or umbilical cord.

Just Strap Her In...

The test is done by attaching a belt to the mother's abdomen in order to record and measure the baby's heart beat and another belt to measure contractions-if the mother is in labor. The baby's activity and heart rate are measured for about 20 to 30 minutes. If there is no movement, it does not necessarily indicate a problem as the baby could be sleeping. The administrator may use a buzzer to stir the baby for activity.

What The Results Indicate

When the results of the test are reactive, meaning there is appropriate action/heart rate response, then the indication is that there is adequate blood and oxygen going to the baby. If the results of the test show a lack of reaction, then further testing is necessary to determine whether the issue is a lack of oxygen or whether there is some other reason for the non-reactivity such as sleep patterns or the effects of medications or non-prescription drugs being used by the mother.


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