Biophysical Profile

Overview

A biophysical profile is a test that can help determine the condition of a fetus. This procedure, which takes a little more than an hour, may be done if you are past your due date, have high blood pressure, diabetes, a small baby or if your doctor is concerned about the amount of fluid around the baby.

However, this test has also become a tool to evaluate a baby’s health status. Even if you do not have any of the above conditions your doctor may still want you to have this ultrasound examination for other reasons.

This ultrasound test looks at these factors:

  • ultrasound measurement of how much amniotic fluid is present
  • status of fetal breathing
  • body movements
  • fetal body tone
  • non-stress test

Each one of these factors allows for two points to be given to produce a total score. If the score is between eight and ten then the fetus is considered to be in good condition. A score of zero to four can mean that the fetus might do better functioning outside of the mother’s body. A score of six usually means another test will be given between 12 and 24 hours after the first test.

Sometimes your doctor will just check the amniotic fluid and do a nonstress test to see if a complete biophysical profile is merited. A non-stress test involves a fetal monitor being placed on your abdomen and monitoring the baby’s heart rate and other activity.

The biophysical profile can help detect processes that can lead to a stillbirth. The test may indicate the need for intervention in order to prevent a stillbirth.

Preparation before the procedure

It’s a good idea to eat a meal before the test because the baby may be more active after you have eaten. You will need a full bladder during this test.

How is it done?

Prior to the biophysical profile you may have a non-stress test to see check the fetal heart rate and to see how the baby is doing. This is often done in the doctor’s office but can be done in the hospital, too. After the baby’s heart rate is recorded you’ll have an ultrasound. You will lie on your back while a technologist or the radiologist puts warmed gel on your lower abdomen so that the sound waves during the test will transmit more clearly. The radiologist will move a transducer, which looks like a kind of wand, over your abdomen. The transducer gives off sound waves and finds the echoes that bounce off the structures inside your body. This will allow your baby’s movements to be watched in real time.

The whole test may take a bit longer than an hour.

What equipment is used?

An ultrasound machine, screen and fetal monitoring device will be used. The fetal monitoring device will have two elastic belts.

How will it feel?

The test is simple and painless.

What are the risks and benefits?

There are no risks to either the mother or the baby. The benefits are that your doctor will have a lot more information about your baby’s health status. This will help your doctor manage your pregnancy better.

Who interprets results and how will I get them?

A radiologist will interpret the results and prepare a report for your doctor. Your doctor will let you know the results of the test.

After the procedure

There are no special instructions to follow after the procedure. You may resume normal activities.