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Nonstress Test

Topic Overview

A nonstress test is used in pregnant women to evaluate the heart rate of a developing baby (fetus). Normally, a developing baby's heart rate ranges from 100 to 160 beats per minute, and it usually speeds up after the baby moves. If the heart rate is faster or slower than this range or does not speed up after the baby moves, it may mean that the baby is not doing well.

During the test:

  • Elastic belts with two sensors are placed on the woman's belly. The sensors are connected to an electronic monitoring machine.
    • One sensor monitors the baby's heart rate.
    • The other sensor is a pressure gauge, which measures the duration of tightening (contractions) of the woman's uterus, if they occur.
  • The woman pushes a button on the machine every time she feels the baby move.
  • The baby's heart rate is compared during movement and during contractions. Normally, the baby's heart rate increases when the baby moves. But the heart rate may not increase during the testing period.

A nonstress test usually takes about 30 minutes. It can be done in a hospital or the doctor's office.

Credits

Current as of: May 29, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Lois Jovanovic, MD, FACE - Endocrinology
Femi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC, FACOG - Obstetrics and Gynecology, Reproductive Endocrinology

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