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What is a Biophysical Profile?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 December 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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A biophysical profile, also known as a BPP test, is a test performed in late pregnancy to assess the health of the fetus. This test may be performed when a woman is past her due date, when a woman has a high risk pregnancy, or when a doctor is concerned for some other reason about the health of the baby. This test is noninvasive and not painful, and it can be a valuable way to gather information about the health of the pregnancy without subjecting mother or fetus to distress.

In a biophysical profile, two separate tests are performed. The first is a nonstress test, in which the mother wears a fetal heart monitor so that the fetal heartbeat can be listened to. After this test, an ultrasound scan is performed to examine the fetus in utero, and to look for any signs of a problem. The primary goal of the biophysical profile is to confirm that the fetus is getting enough oxygen.

Typically, at the end of the test, a score will be prepared. The score is based on several different parameters noted during the test. Scoring systems vary, which means that there's no particular “normal” number. Usually the doctor will discuss the implications of the score with the expecting mother. If the score is low or problems are identified, the doctor will talk about what those problems mean, and what the options are.

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Women are usually asked to have a full bladder for the biophysical profile. They may also be asked to refrain from activities which might make the fetus less active during the test, and to wear loose, comfortable clothing. It will be necessary to lie on a table for the ultrasound examination, and staff in the room can help the expecting mother get comfortable with pillows and supports so that she will be able to hold still for the test.

If a doctor recommends a biophysical profile test, it is not a cause for panic. The doctor may be concerned about being as thorough and careful as possible, to avoid the risk of unidentified problems in pregnancy. There are also a number of things which can influence test results, so poor results are not necessarily a sign that the fetus is in distress. If test results do suggest that there might be a problem, the test may be repeated, and additional testing can be performed to learn more about the situation.

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