What is a biophysical profile during pregnancy?

Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing

A biophysical profile is a special ultrasound test that measures several elements of your baby’s development and gives your ob/gyn or midwife a better picture of how your baby is doing. It may be ordered if you have an abnormal stress test, if you have certain high risk factors during your pregnancy or if you have been in a car accident/or fall or if you have been complaining you haven't felt your baby move as much lately.

The biophysical has 5 components:

  1. Nonstress test - looks for at least two accelerations of your baby's heart beat of at least 15 beats per minute for at least fifteen seconds
  2. Fetal breathing - where they watch the baby's chest wall movement and want to see at least one episode in 30 minutes that lasts at least 30 seconds
  3. Fetal movement - looking for at least 3 limb movements within 30 minutes
  4. Fetal tone - looks for at least one episode of your baby flexing its limbs within 30 minutes
  5. Amniotic fluid volume - looks for pockets of fluid and needs at least one measurement of greater than 2 cms.

If your score is 8 or above typically your baby is doing okay. If your score is 6 or below your baby may be under some stress and your ob/gyn or midwife will discuss a plan of care for you and your baby.

A biophysical profile is a multiparameter approach to observing fetal well-being using a non-stress test and real-time ultrasound. The parameters assessed with real time ultrasound include:

  • Fetal tone or the extension and flexion of fetal extremities
  • Fetal movement or the observation of three distinct movements in a 30minute period.
  • Fetal breathing or rhythmic movement of the chest wall lasting 30 seconds or more.
  • Amniotic fluid volume or the presence of a single pocket of fluid exceeding 2 cm.

 These findings are combined with the results of a non-stress test to determine the score of the biophysical profile.

This is a total score compiled from the results of a non-stress test and various parameters from an ultrasound exam, including fetal movements, breathing motions, and the amount of amniotic fluid. This score helps evaluate the well being of the fetus and is a more extensive evaluation than the non-stress test or contraction stress test.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.