The non-stress test is usually taken during the third trimester, typically within one month of the expectant mother's due date.
During the test, you'll be asked to rest quietly for about twenty minutes on an examining table or in a reclining chair. A belt equipped with ultrasound transducers will be strapped around your abdomen. Through it, the baby's heart rate will be measured as a response to its own movements (the heartbeat usually speeds up when the baby moves). If the baby isn't moving much, it may be asleep and will be wakened by a gentle nudge through the abdomen or with a buzzer. The test is painless for mother and baby.
Non-stress test results are available immediately. Results are considered normal, or "reactive," if the fetal heart rate accelerates normally in response to movement. A "non-reactive" test means that the heart rate does not respond as expected. If that's the case, you may be asked to take follow-up tests, such as a contraction stress test. This needn't be cause for alarm -- perfectly healthy babies sometimes have non-reactive tests. If your practitioner feels that uterine conditions for your baby aren't what they should be, you may be advised to deliver early by inducing labor.
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