Although pregnancy can be quite stressful and exhausting, the non-stress tests we will be talking about do not target pregnant women but are performed to check the baby’s health during late pregnancy.
The fetal non-stress test is a well-known, non-invasive testing approach recommended at the end of the pregnancy to monitor your baby’s general health. It is called a non-stress test because it does not stress the baby, and it does not affect the pregnancy in any way. It uses an external monitor, where the doctor can monitor the heartbeat and movements of the baby.
The fetal non-stress test is usually done in the third trimester, but you can do it earlier, especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy. NST is especially recommended if the doctors suspect the fetus is at risk of death. In any case, your chosen doctor will be able to determine the perfect timing for your NST monitoring.
You have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to obstetrical care in Boca Raton & Boynton, FL. It is of immense importance for you to get an expert doctor to follow your pregnancy and progress, so make sure you test all the possible choices. Women’s Health Partners LLC is one of the most successful clinics in the field of OBGYN services, so explore this option as well.
The Purpose of NST Monitoring
As mentioned earlier, NST monitoring is done before the baby is even born. The test aims to give the healthcare provider and the future mother information about the fetal heart rate, the baby’s movement, and the oxygen supply. The test can discover some other potential issues and the need for further testing.
Fetal heart rate is faster when babies grow bigger and are more active later in the pregnancy. NST in pregnancy can discover issues such as fetal hypoxia, which comes from the fact that the child is not getting enough oxygen. Below you can find other reasons why a non-stress test could be recommended, such as:
- If you have type 1 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and alike
- If you are two weeks past the due date
- If you had some complications during a previous pregnancy
- If you are having twins, triplets, etc., and you are already struggling with complications
- Decreased movements of the baby, and growth issues concerning the fetus
- Issues with Rh negative and Rh positive blood group sensitization
- Problems with the amniotic fluid
- You are older than 35
If your chosen doctor recommends an NST, please do not worry too much about it. This does not have to mean that there is anything wrong with the baby, it is simply a precautionary method so that the doctors can evaluate the baby’s movement, health, and if the overall pregnancy is going well.
When is NST Testing Performed?
The NST in pregnancy is usually done from the 32nd week of pregnancy, but it can be advised even earlier. Regarding the testing frequency, some women do it every other week while some have to do the test every day. The frequency will be determined by your chosen medical professional based on the reason they recommended the non-stress test.
How is it Done?
Non-stress tests are most often scheduled in the doctor’s office. For the preparation steps, it is essential to wear light clothing which is loose and comfortable. Also, eat a snack before coming to the test, but do not overeat. This is advised since babies become more active after the mother eats. Go to the restroom before the test, because it can last from 20 to 40 minutes.
The patient either sits in a chair or lays down on the medical table, and the provider attaches a transducer instrument to a belt, which was previously put around the patient’s waist. This instrument is painless and very safe, and it is used to monitor the fetal heart rate. Your blood pressure will be monitored before the test. The heart rate is tracked during uterine activity, so every time the baby moves, the mother pushes a button so that the doctor can follow the movement and the heart rate.
The equipment is removed after the test is done, and the results come right away.
Sometimes the baby does not move during the test, probably because it is asleep. When this occurs, you might need to consume something with caffeine to wake the baby up. It is not unusual to extend the test and wait for the child to wake up. A noise-making device is also used in cases when the baby does not move.
Results of NST monitoring
The results of the NST are most often delivered right after the test itself. These are the possible explanations of the results you can get from your chosen doctor:
- Reactive: the results are viewed as normal (if the test is done before week 32) when the baby’s heartbeat reaches a level above the baseline twice or more for at least ten seconds within the 20 minutes. If the test is done after week 32, the heartbeat needs to accelerate to a particular level above the baseline twice or more for a minimum of 15 seconds in the 20 minutes.
- Non-reactive: if the abovementioned criteria are not reached as described, the results are seen as non-reactive.
When the test results are considered non-reactive, the chosen medical professional can do an additional prenatal test to check the baby’s health in more detail. These tests can include:
- Biophysical profile test is a combination of the NST with a fetal ultrasound evaluating the baby’s body movements, muscle tone, breathing, and amniotic fluid.
- Contraction stress test is a test that monitors the baby’s heart rate and how it reacts the moment your womb contracts. If your uterine activity is not happening on its own, then the doctors give you oxytocin to trigger the activity.
You may be asked to repeat another non-stress test.
Other reasons why the results of the NST might be non-reactive are:
- Fetal hypoxia
- Smoking during pregnancy
- Use of medication
- Neurological issues with the fetus
- Cardiac anomalies in the fetus
Although non-stress tests are considered low-risk testing methods, and they do not put the baby or the mother at any risk of harm, the biggest issue can be an incorrect reading of the results, and the stress that might cause in the mothers to be. Make sure you share any potential concerns you might have with your chosen doctor, and try to avoid any additional unnecessary stress.
Non-stress testing is a non-invasive method of checking your baby’s health, but its non-invasive nature does not make it any more comfortable or less stressful for the mother-to-be. Any test brings a dose of worry and fear, and with this in mind, our clinic has equipped experts who will guide you through the process and elevate as much stress as possible that you can potentially experience during an NST. Call us!