Pregnancy can be the most wonderful feeling, but it can also be overwhelming to the point where you wouldn’t know what to do first. If you’re a first-time soon-to-be mom who’s going through the same thing, first things first: Get yourself checked. Going in for regular doctor’s appointments throughout your pregnancy is one of the most important things to do to ensure a healthy and successful pregnancy.
During your prenatal visits, you will undergo certain tests and procedures for a couple of reasons: to confirm your pregnancy, to keep track of your health and your baby’s health, and basically to ensure that you are going to deliver a healthy baby. Some of these tests may be routine examinations, such as an ultrasound, a pap smear, or blood tests to check for certain health conditions. However, you may also be required to undergo particular tests, such as a non-stress test, if your pregnancy is considered high risk.
What is a non-stress test?
Also known as fetal heart rate monitoring, a non-stress test is commonly recommended as prenatal testing to check on the baby’s health. Basically, this procedure is done to measure and monitor fetal heart rate and observe how it responds to the baby’s activity. While not all pregnant women may undergo this test, it is a particularly comfortable non-invasive exam, with the term “non-stress” suggesting that no stress is placed upon the fetus throughout the procedure.
A non-stress test is normally done after the pregnancy reaches 26 to 28 weeks. The results of this procedure may indicate if you or your baby need further testing or additional care.
Why is it done?
It is particularly important to perform a non-stress test before labor or delivery to have the
baby’s health evaluated and any complications corrected before birth. This procedure is used to provide useful information regarding your baby’s health—more specifically whether or not he or she is receiving adequate oxygen supply inside the womb. This is done by checking the baby’s heart rate and its reaction to your baby’s movements.
Specifically, your doctor may have you undergo a non-stress test for a number of reasons, which includes: if you notice that your baby is not moving as frequently as before, if you are past your due date, if your healthcare provider is suspecting a non-functioning placenta, or if you have health complications such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. You might also need one if your baby measures small for his or her gestational age.
How is it performed?
During a non-stress test, your abdomen will be strapped with two belts: one with an attached sensor that measures fetal heart rate, and another with a toco transducer that measures uterine contractions. For about 20 to 30 minutes, the monitor that’s connected to these sensors will record the heart rate, movement, and the “reactivity” of the heart rate to your baby’s activity.
There may be times when the baby does not seem to be moving. When this happens to you, try to relax and stay calm. This does not necessarily indicate a problem, as your child could just be sleeping. In cases like this, the nurse or healthcare provider may use a “buzzer” to try and wake your baby.
During the test, the doctor may ask you to press a button if you feel your baby kick or move. This makes it easier for the doctor to determine if your baby’s heartbeat has changed during movement.
What do test results mean?
If the baby moves a lot and has a normal heart rate throughout the test, the result is classified as “reactive,” which means he or she is not under any stress.
Meanwhile, you may get a “nonreactive” result if your baby is not able to reach a minimum number of movements throughout the 40-minute period of the test or if his or her heart rate does not accelerate as expected during movement. A nonreactive result does not entirely mean that the fetus is in danger. But since this indicates that the baby isn’t getting the amount of oxygen that he or she needs, your baby could be under stress and subject for further monitoring. Depending on your doctor’s discretion, you may be ordered to undergo additional testing, perhaps a biophysical profile, to determine whether labor induction or early delivery is essential.
Do take note that a reactive result is far more likely to be an accurate one than a nonreactive result . If you’ve had a non-stress test with an initial nonreactive result and another with a reactive result, the results of the second non-stress test is considered the more reliable one.
If you’re ever ordered to take a non-stress test, keep in mind that it is only to make sure that your baby is doing well inside your womb and not to be a cause for panic. Knowing the status of our baby’s health before he or she arrives should be able to bring peace of mind rather than unnecessary anxiety.