What is a Pregnancy Stress Test and Why You May Need One

What is a Pregnancy Stress Test and Why You May Need One

If you are pregnant, you may hear about a pregnancy stress test. It’s important to know what it is, and why you may need one. Here’s what you need to know.

What is a Pregnancy Stress Test?

A pregnancy stress test is a medical procedure that monitors the health of both the fetus and the mother. It’s performed to find out how the baby is tolerating stress, and to determine if there are any potential complications that may arise during pregnancy or during labor and delivery.

Types of Pregnancy Stress Tests

There are two main types of pregnancy stress tests:

  • Non-stress test: This test measures the baby’s heartbeat in response to the baby’s movements. It’s typically performed in the last few weeks of pregnancy.
  • Contraction stress test: This test measures the baby’s heartbeat in response to contractions of the uterus. It’s typically performed in the last few weeks of pregnancy if there are concerns about the baby’s health.

Why You May Need a Pregnancy Stress Test

A pregnancy stress test may be recommended by your doctor if:

  • You have a high-risk pregnancy
  • You have gestational diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Your baby is not growing as expected
  • You are past your due date
  • You have a history of stillbirth or miscarriage

Risks Associated with Pregnancy Stress Tests

Although pregnancy stress tests are generally safe, there are some risks associated with the procedure:

  • Contractions may be induced, which can cause discomfort or lead to preterm labor
  • There is a small risk of infection
  • There is a small risk of injury to the fetus or the mother

How to Prepare for a Pregnancy Stress Test

When you schedule a pregnancy stress test, your doctor will provide you with specific instructions on how to prepare for the test. Generally, you will be asked not to eat or drink anything for a few hours before the test, and you will be asked to wear comfortable clothing.

What Happens During a Pregnancy Stress Test

During a pregnancy stress test, you may be asked to lie down on your back, and a device called a tocodynamometer will be placed on your abdomen to monitor your contractions. In addition, a fetal heart rate monitor will be placed on your abdomen to monitor the baby’s heart rate.

If you are having a non-stress test, you may be given a button to press when you feel the baby move. If you are having a contraction stress test, you may be given medication to stimulate contractions and monitor the baby’s heart rate during these contractions.

Results of a Pregnancy Stress Test

The results of a pregnancy stress test will be evaluated by your doctor or midwife. If everything looks normal, you may not need any further testing. However, if there are concerns about the baby’s health, your doctor may recommend additional testing, such as a biophysical profile.

Interpreting the Results

During a non-stress test, a healthy baby will have a normal heart rate that increases in response to movement. During a contraction stress test, a healthy baby will have a normal heart rate that remains stable during contractions.

If the results of a pregnancy stress test are abnormal, your doctor may recommend additional testing or delivery of the baby.

Conclusion

A pregnancy stress test can provide valuable information about the health of both the mother and the baby. If your doctor recommends a pregnancy stress test, it’s important to follow their instructions and ask any questions you may have about the procedure.

Common Questions and Answers

  • What is the difference between a non-stress test and a contraction stress test? A non-stress test measures the baby’s heartbeat in response to its movements, while a contraction stress test measures the baby’s heartbeat in response to contractions of the uterus.
  • When is a pregnancy stress test typically performed? A pregnancy stress test is typically performed in the last few weeks of pregnancy.
  • What are the risks associated with a pregnancy stress test? The risks associated with a pregnancy stress test include contractions being induced, infection, and injury to the fetus and/or mother.
  • How do you prepare for a pregnancy stress test? Your doctor will provide you with specific instructions on how to prepare for the test, but generally, you will be asked not to eat or drink anything for a few hours before the test, and you will be asked to wear comfortable clothing.
  • What happens during a pregnancy stress test? During a pregnancy stress test, devices will be placed on your abdomen to monitor your contractions and the baby’s heart rate.

References

1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2016). Your Pregnancy and Childbirth Month to Month (6th ed.). American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

2. Mayo Clinic. (2020, August 19). Prenatal testing: Quick guide to common tests. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/prenatal-testing/art-20045356

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