A biophysical profile is a test that is sometimes used during the third trimester of pregnancy. It is often done if there is a question about the baby’s health. This may be because of other test results or certain pregnancy symptoms, or because your pregnancy is high risk.
The biophysical profile combines two tests to check your unborn baby’s overall health: a non-stress test and an ultrasound.
During the biophysical profile, your provider is looking at 5 main areas to check your baby’s health: body movements, muscle tone, breathing movements, amniotic fluid, and heartbeat.
Each of these 5 areas is given a score of either 0 (abnormal) or 2 (normal). These scores are then added up for a total score ranging from 0 to 10. In general, a score of 8 or 10 is normal, while 6 is borderline. Below 6 is a sign of possible problems. More tests may be needed.
The test results can also help your healthcare provider decide if your baby might need to be born early.
A biophysical profile is often done if there is a concern about your baby’s health. For instance, it might be done if there is decreased fetal movement or a fetal growth problem, or your pregnancy goes past 42 weeks. But if your healthcare provider suggests a biophysical profile, it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with your baby.
Your provider may have other reasons to recommend a biophysical profile.
The biophysical profile is an easy, safe, and painless procedure. For the non-stress test, the provider wraps two belts are wrapped around your belly. Devices (sensors) attached to these belts will check your baby’s heart rate and your contractions. For the ultrasound, the provider will put a gel on your belly. Then he or she will move an ultrasound wand (transducer) and press into the gel. This will give a view into your uterus. The images can be seen on a screen.
This test poses very little risk to you and your baby. Some concern has been raised about doing ultrasounds over a long period of time. But having an ultrasound now and then doesn’t seem to be a risk to your baby.
You may have other risks depending on your specific condition. Be sure to talk with your provider about any concerns you have before the test.
The biophysical profile is often done in a private room at your healthcare provider's office.
Generally a biophysical profile follows this process:
Your healthcare provider will score your baby’s health based on the results of the five areas checked: body movements, muscle tone, breathing movements, amniotic fluid, and heartbeat.
You will talk with your provider about what the score means. If the score is lower than your provider had hoped, he or she might suggest that you schedule your baby’s delivery earlier than expected. This may mean inducing labor. Or you might deliver by C-section (cesarean section).
If your baby scores in the normal range, your provider may decide that everything is OK. You can go on with your pregnancy as usual. You can wait for labor to start on its own. You may be asked to repeat this test in a week or so.
There are no special precautions to take after a biophysical profile.
Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions, depending on your own situation.