Electronic Fetal Non-Stress and Stress Tests

October 6, 2011

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The electronic fetal non-stress and stress tests help give you and your health provider a view at your baby’s well-being by evaluating fetal heart rate.

These tests are generally done during the third trimester of pregnancy, often if you have a high risk pregnancy or if you are past your due date.

Nonstress test

During the nonstress test, a belt will be placed on your abdomen. The special belt will measure your baby’s heart rate with the use of sound waves. You or a practitioner may push a button when your baby moves.

Each time your baby moves, its heart rate measurement will show up on a graph. A baby is thought to be in good health if its heart rate increases after moving. This is what the nonstress test evaluates.

The nonstress test takes about 20 to 40 minutes to complete.

Stress test

The stress test is a lot like the nonstress test. A special belt is placed on your abdomen to measure your baby’s heart rate with the use of sound waves.

The difference between this and the nonstress test is that your baby’s heart rate will be measured while your practitioner induces mild contractions.

Your healthcare provider may give you the medication oxytocin to induce the contractions. The test requires 3 contractions in a 10 minute time frame.

The stress test can take an hour or two to complete.

How accurate is this test?

Both the nonstress test and the stress test have a high rate of false positives. This means that the test could show a problem when one does not exist.

For this reason, if your test shows there is a possible problem, it is likely that your test will be repeated the following day.

A contraction stress test is usually done following an abnormal nonstress test.

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