Fetal Non-Stress Tests

by Shelagh McGregor

Fetal non-stress tests are used in pregnancy to passively monitor the baby’s heart rate, which tells health care practitioners about the health of the baby.

What A Non-Stress Test Tells You About Your Baby’s Health  

The number of beats per minute and the pattern of the baby’s heart rate can actually tell a health care practitioner a lot about what is happening in utero.

A normal fetus’ heart rate usually ranges between 110 and 160 beats per minute. If the fetus’ heart rate drops below 110, it can be a sign of the baby being in distress. If it goes above 160 beats per minute, it can be a sign that the baby is having a hard time responding to a stressor.

Our heart’s ability to respond to physical activity is an indicator of health. When we exercise, our heart beat goes up, and when we rest, it goes down. The same thing happens with a fetus, and as a result health care practitioners look for the variability in the baby’s heart rate to determine the health of the baby – the more variation in the baby’s heart rate, the more reassured you can be that the baby is healthy. On the flip side, if there is minimal variability in the fetal heart rate, it can be a sign of the baby having trouble responding to its surroundings, and possibly suffers from a compromised heart and organ function.

Why Would You Undergo A Non-Stress Test?

Non-Stress tests are done before labour (ie – before there is any stress on the fetus), and there are a number of reasons why your doctor would want you to undergo a non-stress test, but all are to determine the health of your fetus. They include:

  • Monitoring when you are past your due date;
  • Monitoring after induction of labour;
  • If your pregnancy is complicated by conditions that increase the risk to the baby such as high blood pressure or diabetes;
  • If there is any sign that your pregnancy may not be going well, such as reduced fetal movement or reduced fetal growth; or
  • If you’ve had problems in other pregnancies.

Are Non-Stress Tests Important In Birth Injury Lawsuits?

The results of non-stress tests are useful information to determine the timing of a hypoxic-ischemic injury, because they can show if the fetus was healthy or in distress, and it can narrow the window for when the injury occurred. Proving the timing of the injury is an important consideration when pursuing a birth injury claim. Also, if health care practitioners don’t properly respond to concerning results from a non-stress test that can be the basis of a negligence claim.

If you have any questions about the importance of fetal heart rate monitoring to birth injury lawsuits, a Birth Injury Lawyers Alliance member lawyer would be happy to discuss it further with you.

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