Information On Reasons and Procedure For Conducting a Biophysical Profile Test

Submitted on March 27, 2012

What is a Biophysical Profile?

A biophysical profile (BPP) is a test done during pregnancy to measure the health of the fetus (unborn baby). It includes a nonstress test, along with electronic fetal heart monitoring and fetal ultrasound. The tests measure and give a biophysical profile of five areas - the heart rate, movement, muscle tone, breathing and the quantity of amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus.

When Is it Recommended?

  • An obstetrics biophysical profile is usually done during the last trimester of pregnancy.
  • It is also recommended if you have a high risk pregnancy with various health problems such as hyperthyroidism, lupus, bleeding problems, gestational or Type 1 diabetes, chronic kidney disease, hypertension, too much or too little amniotic fluid, preeclampsia (history of stillbirth), Rh incompatibility, or a history of placenta problems or early labor.
  • You may also be advised a BPP if you have a multiple pregnancy (twins or triplets), if the baby dos not seem to be growing enough, if your pregnancy has exceeded its due date and also if you have an injury such as a fall or car crash.
  • While a BPP is usually recommended at 32 or 34 weeks, you might need a test every week in the third trimester.

How Is it Done?

Usually a BPP is done by a radiologist or an ultrasound technologist, or by your obstetrician in the clinic, office or hospital. Most doctors prefer a modified biophysical profile, combining amniotic fluid index with a non-stress test.

Nonstress test

In this, your baby's heart rate is monitored with an external device – two flat sensors - strapped on to your belly. The sensors are connected to a machine which measures and records the duration of the contractions as well as the heart rate of the baby. The test takes around 30 minutes.

Fetal ultrasound

You are required to have a full bladder for this. As you lie on the examination table, a gel is spread over your abdomen. A transducer, which is a small hand-held instrument, is moved over your abdomen, helping to project images of the fetus on a monitor. These are reviewed by the doctor or a radiologist and give an indication of the health of the fetus. The procedure may last almost 60 minutes.

Test Score

You will be given a score measuring the health of your baby in the five areas mentioned above. If the score is 8 to 10 points, it means the baby is healthy. If the score is 6 to 8 points, you may have to go in for another test in 12 to 24 hours. If the score is less than 4, it may indicate some problems.