Assessing Fetal Growth and Well-Being

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Your baby's well-being

If there are concerns over your baby's growth, you may be referred for a "non-stress" test and/or biophysical profile testing, which observe how your baby responds to stimuli and if there are signs of fetal distress. If you have a known condition that can affect your baby's growth (see Growth charts), your doctor may arrange for you to have one or both of the above tests once or twice a week after about 32 weeks' gestation as a matter of routine, whether or not there are concerns about your baby's growth. Some hospitals also perform special scans, known as Doppler scans (see Doppler scans) to assess placental blood flow.

A non-stress test

This test assesses your baby's well-being. An external transducer is placed on your abdomen to listen for accelerations in your baby's heart rate that last about 15 seconds. The mother may or may not notice any fetal movement during these accelerations. The test result is thought to be "reassuring" if the heart accelerates twice over 20-30 minutes, and there are no large decelerations. About 10-20 percent of babies have a test with less than two accelerations. This doesn't necessarily mean there is a problem: your baby may just have been asleep, and the test may be repeated.

A biophysical profile (BPP)

If, after the non-stress test, your doctor has concerns about your baby, a biophysical profile (BPP) may be done. A BPP combines the results of a CTG reading with a scan to evaluate four factors: the volume of amniotic fluid, fetal movement, fetal muscle tone and posture, and fetal breathing. Two points are given for each part of the test, so a "reassuring" BPP result would be eight points.

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Excerpted from Pregnancy Day by Day.
Copyright ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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