There are many things that could send you into a panic in your third trimester. As your due date approaches, you’ll worry about every meal you eat, every muscle you twist, and every position you lie in. Though your growing baby is probably a lot heartier than you assume, it’s natural to be concerned that you might negatively affect his or her development by doing something wrong. For that reason, you might get freaked out when your doctor recommends a “biophysical profile” to examine the health of your baby.

The biophysical profile test sounds a lot worse than it actually is, and it’s usually no cause for concern. In many cases, it’s a routine test to determine the health of your baby in the last trimester if anything unusual has come up during your pregnancy or if your doctor deems your pregnancy high-risk for one reason or another. Women who have babies at an older age are considered high-risk, as well as women with gestational diabetes or hypertension. These tests are also commonly administered to women who have gone past their due date without giving birth.

A biophysical profile is a test that is simple and painless. It will determine your baby’s health in the womb, which is extremely important as the due date approaches. Before the test, your doctor might have you eat a big meal to get your baby moving around and active. Most biophysical profiles start with an ultrasound to test the baby’s movements and muscle tone. Many also include a nonstress test to evaluate your baby’s heart rate. At the end of the exam, your doctor will rate your baby with a number based on his or her physical health. With that number evaluation, your doctor will know whether or not you should be induced for labor or if a cesarean section will be necessary for a healthy birth.

When your doctor recommends a biophysical exam near the end of your pregnancy, there is no reason to panic. Though your pregnancy might be high-risk, the exam will actually make the delivery safer by alerting doctor and nurses to any abnormalities in your baby’s health and wellness. The test is very simple, and it poses absolutely no risk to you or your baby. Make sure you go through with the test if it’s recommended to guarantee the health of your little one on the big day.

Source: John Lalor et al: Biophysical Profile for Fetal Assessment in High Risk Pregnancies. The Cochrane Library July 2008


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