The Importance of Prenatal Non-Stress Test


Prenatal non-stress test (NST), also known as fetal heart rate monitoring, is a simple and painless test carried out during pregnancy for assessing the overall condition of the fetus. This test is usually performed during the 26 to 28 weeks of pregnancy and is non-invasive in nature.

The main procedure involved in the test is the monitoring of the heart rate of the fetus. The movements and the heart rate of the fetus are measured for about 20 to 30 minutes.  Prenatal non-stress tests are carried out across all affordable health clinics in the country.

When is a Prenatal Non-Stress Test Performed?

The prenatal non-stress test is usually performed when the fetus is prone to any health risk factors. If the fetus is not showing any frequent movements, it can indicate a problem and the non-stress test is performed in order to evaluate the health condition.

The test itself can provide accurate results regarding the health of the fetus and other conditions such as insufficient reception of oxygen due to any problems in the placental or umbilical cord. However, it is important to note that the test is only performed after 18 weeks in the pregnancy period, as the fetus will not be developed well to respond to the tests before that.

Why is an NST Performed?

The importance of carrying out the non-stress test is highlighted in the fact that it will help prevent any complications that may arise during the final stages of pregnancy. The main aim of performing an NST is to evaluate the heart rate of the fetus in its movements. A healthy fetus will positively respond to any signs of movement with an increase in the heart rate, which will lower while the baby is resting.

Understanding the Results of a Non-Stress Test

The non-stress test is based on the concept that the fetus will show movements and normal heart rate if it is receiving adequate oxygen. Low oxygen levels can cause the fetus to respond abnormally. A reactive test result means that the heart rate of the fetus was recorded at at least 15 beats per minute for a period of 15 seconds. This is done twice in a 20-minute span to confirm that the fetus is exhibiting a normal heart rate.

A non-reactive test result means that the fetal heart rate did not change according to its movements. However, this may not indicate that the fetus is having a problem. Because this test result can yield minimal information, it is repeated after an hour for more accurate results.

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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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