Non-Stress Testing: Objectives, Risks and Procedures


During pregnancy, your health care provider may recommend some prenatal tests needed to check the health of the mother and fetus and detect any abnormalities. One of them is the non-stress test.

A non-stress test, as the name suggests, is a non-invasive test that does not stress the baby. This test monitors your baby’s heart rate as he moves. It also checks the oxygen levels of the fetus. Doctors recommend non-stress testing at the end of pregnancy or early in high-risk pregnancies.

This blog details non-stress testing, its purpose, risks, and procedures.

What is a non-stress test?

As mentioned above, the non-stress test looks at your baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels as they move. A woman can feel the baby’s movements at the 16th week of pregnancy. As your pregnancy progresses, your baby becomes more active and your heart beats faster. A strong, healthy heartbeat indicates your baby is getting enough oxygen.

If your baby is inactive or moves slowly, it may indicate that your baby is not getting enough oxygen.In any pregnancy, the goal is to keep the woman and baby healthy. That’s it.

Doctors usually recommend a non-stress test during the third trimester of pregnancy if they think there may be a problem with the baby or if the woman is at risk of pregnancy complications. Therefore, women may become anxious when undergoing a non-stress test. A high-risk woman undergoes multiple non-stress tests as often as she once or twice a week during pregnancy. With the help of an external monitor, doctors can monitor the baby’s heartbeat and movement, and in most cases even identify uterine contractions.

Why Do Women Need Non-Stress Tests?

Not all pregnant women need a non-stress test. You should take this test if:

  • expired
  • Abnormal baby movements
  • suffering from various physical ailments such as high blood pressureheart disease, diabetes, or clotting disorders
  • multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets, or more)
  • have suffered complications from previous pregnancies
  • low levels of amniotic fluid

Doctors may recommend this test if the pregnant woman’s blood type is Rh-negative. This condition can cause the woman’s body to produce antibodies in the baby’s blood.

How is the non-stress test performed?

before the procedure

doctor is pregnant blood pressure before the non-stress test begins.

in process

Non-stress tests are administered by a nurse while an obstetrician-gynecologist interprets the results. During the examination, doctors check the pregnant woman’s blood pressure at various intervals. The woman lies on an examination table while a nurse applies a special gel to her abdomen and attaches a transducer around her stomach. A transducer is a monitor that analyzes your baby’s heartbeat. A uterine monitor is also connected to the mother to assess and monitor uterine contractions.

When a woman is connected to an external monitor, she receives a buzzer to press whenever she senses baby movement.

A computer monitor receives motion information each time a click or buzz occurs. The non-stress test can only last about 20 minutes if the baby is awake and active at the beginning of the test. The test may take longer when your baby is sleeping or inactive. In such cases, the nurse has to wake the baby by placing a rattling device on the woman’s stomach to wake the baby. Plus, eating and drinking can keep your baby awake and active.

After procedure

If the non-stress test results are unresponsive, your doctor may suggest longer-term monitoring or ask for additional tests, possibly on the same day.

Your doctor can determine if your baby is stressed, depending on the results of the second nonstress test or additional tests. At this point, the woman should discuss whether further testing is warranted or whether factors, including gestational age, support the decision to induce labor.

If a woman has a high-risk pregnancy or expects a multiple pregnancy, the doctor may do many non-stress tests during pregnancy, even if previous test results have been positive. Yes, this allows your doctor to keep track of your baby’s health throughout the pregnancy.

What is the result of the non-stress test?

Your doctor will give you one of two results:

  • reactivity: Tested before 32 weeks of gestation and known to be responsive if the baby’s heart rate accelerates above baseline at least twice every 10 seconds within 20 minutes to a certain level. Similarly, if the test is performed after 32 weeks of gestation and the baby’s heartbeat accelerates to a certain level above baseline for at least 15 seconds within 20 minutes of hers, more than once, the result is reactive.
  • non-reactive: If the baby’s heart rate does not meet the above criteria, the result is considered non-responsive. This may be due to the baby being inactive or sleeping during the test.

A reactive non-stress test gives mothers a sense of security. However, a non-reactive, non-stress test may raise concerns and lead to another prenatal test to check the health of the baby. Below are some of the tests recommended by doctors.

  • biophysical profile: Physician performs a biophysical profile with the fetus ultrasound Assess your baby’s breathing, movement, muscle tone, and amniotic fluid levels.
  • contraction stress test: This test assesses the baby’s heart rate as the uterus contracts. During the examination, oxytocin is given intravenously to induce uterine contractions.


Non-stress tests make women anxious. Required if the woman is at high risk or has had previous complications. Prenatal tests give doctors more information to keep women and babies healthy. Most women with non-reactive test results give birth to healthy babies. So don’t be alarmed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. Are there any risks in non-stress testing?

A non-stress test poses no risk to women and babies.

2. What do the results mean?

A non-stress test result result means one of the following:

  • Reactive – These results indicate that the baby’s heart rate and movements are normal. This indicates that your baby is healthy and not stressed, and your heart rate is increasing with movement.
  • Non-reactive – If the test result does not respond, it indicates that the baby does not meet the required minimum number of movements. It can also show changes in your baby’s heart rate due to movement.

A woman should not be alarmed if the results do not respond. This could mean that your baby was sleeping or uncooperative during the test, indicating less movement.

3. What additional tests can the doctor do with the non-stress test?

In addition to non-stress tests, physicians can perform biophysical profiles and contractile stress tests.

4. When should women take a non-stress test?

Doctors don’t do a non-stress test until the third trimester, usually around 32 weeks. However, for high-risk pregnancies, women can have this test early. Non-Stress Testing: Objectives, Risks and Procedures

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