A biophysical profile is a prenatal test done to assess the health of the fetus and is typically only done if there is some doubt as a part of a decision making process. Typically it is done as part of an overall and ongoing assessment to decide if the labor should be induced in mothers whose health may be at risk if the pregnancy continues or fetuses whose placenta may become inadequate to sustain life prematurely or in pregnancies where other stressors put the fetus at risk. The risk benefit ratio of induction of premature labor is measured more accurately when the condition of the pregnancy and fetus are more accurately known.

The test is often done repeatedly as the pregnancy progresses, along with other tests and assessment. It poses no risk to the mother or fetus beyond the speculative risk of ultrasound.

The test consists of a non-stress test, which simply matches changes in the fetus’s heart rate with fetal movement. The heart rate should change in predicable ways with normal fetal movement. If it doesn’t it is a sign of fetal stress. Then an ultrasound of the uterus is done and the infant’s movements, breathing and muscle tone are assessed. The amount of amniotic fluid is also measured. Each of the 5 components are assigned a point value of 0 – 2 allowing a total of 0 – 10 points in the final score. 8 – 10 is normal. 6 is borderline. Less than 6 is cause for concern.

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