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Non-Stress Test


Updated July 17, 2014

This is an external fetal monitor used to listen to baby in labor.

External Fetal Monitor

Photo © iStockPhoto

Why the test is done:

This test can be done in the later stages of pregnancy. It is more frequently used in cases where the mother is going past her assigned due date to ensure fetal well-being. In some cases it is done as a precaution after problems in a previous pregnancy or because of high risk factors such as diabetes, intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR), etc.

How the test is done:

This test is usually done in your practitioner's office. You will sit in a chair or lie on a table with fetal monitoring equipment hooked to your belly. The monitor will record your baby's heart rate in conjunction with any uterine activity. More frequently than not you are asked to press a button when the baby moves so that the heart rate can be seen in relationship to that movement.

When the test is done:

This test is most frequently done between weeks 38 and 42, however, it can be used as early as the beginning of the third trimester.

How the results are given:

Reactive and non-reactive are usually the way the results are give. Sometimes little ones don't cooperate during the testing and move. So the mother is offered a drink of something usually containing sugar or bubbles to perk the baby up. If this doesn't cause the baby to move sometimes a loud sound will be used to startle the baby into moving. Remember babies can and do sleep in utero.

Risks involved:

  • misinterpretation of the data
  • exposure to ultrasound


Stress testing or biophysical profile.

Where do you go from here?

If the baby is still not as responsive as they would like you may either go to a biophyiscal profile, a stress test or even induction.

Related Video
Common Sign Language for Babies
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  5. Prenatal Tests
  6. Biophysical Profile
  7. Non-stress Test for Fetal Well Being in Late Pregnancy

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