A prenatal screening tool used to help monitor the fetus’s condition is called a non stress test. The procedure is called a non-stress test because it causes no harm to the baby.
What happens during a non stress test?
A non stress test lasts about one hour. During the test, the pregnant woman is hooked up to fetal monitors. These monitors are similar to the bands you can expect to see during labor. The pregnant woman is also given a device that she will use to record movements.
Each time the woman feels the baby move or kick, she should push the device.
The object of the non stress test is to monitor and evaluate the fetal heart rate during periods of rest and activity. In a healthy situation, the fetal heart rate will increase when the baby begins moving and starts kicking. These results show the doctor that the fetus is receiving proper amounts of oxygen and is in no fetal distress.
Who should have the test?
Non stress tests are typically performed after 28 weeks of pregnancy. The most common time a non stress test is ordered is when a woman goes past her due date. There are no risks or possible side effects associated with a non stress test.
Some women are advised to under go non stress tests for reasons other than post term. These reasons include: high risk pregnancies, history of complications in the third trimester and diabetes.
Non stress tests can be performed right in the doctor’s office. There is no special preparation required such as fasting. Sometimes a baby just “doesn’t want to cooperate.” The baby could be sleeping. If this is the case, the woman may be asked to eat or drink something to help make the baby more active.
If the baby does not react the way the doctor had hoped it does not automatically mean there is a problem. It means that additional tests may need to be taken to rule out a problem.
As a pregnancy advances, a doctor may order a non stress test weekly. A non stress test also helps doctors know if a placenta is still performing its job adequately. If a doctor believes the baby is showing signs of distress, he/she may advise to induce labor.