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Biophysical Profile (BPP)

How It Feels

Lying on your back (or side) during the test may be uncomfortable. During a fetal ultrasound, you may have a feeling of pressure in your bladder. The gel may feel cool when it is first applied to your stomach. You will feel a light pressure from the transducer as it passes over your abdomen.

Risks

There is very little chance of either the mother or the baby having a problem from a biophysical profile (BPP). But you may feel anxious if the ultrasound reveals a problem with your pregnancy or baby. A nonstress test may falsely show distress in a baby that is actually healthy.

Results

A biophysical profile (BPP) test measures the health of your baby (fetus) during pregnancy. The results are scores on five measurements in a 30-minute observation period.

A score of 8 to 10 points means that your baby is healthy. A score of 6 to 8 points means that you may need to be retested in 12 to 24 hours. A score of 4 or less may mean the baby is having problems. Further testing will be recommended.

Biophysical profile1
Measurement Normal (2 points) Abnormal (0 points)
Nonstress test

2 or more heart rate increases of at least 15 beats per minute. Each increase lasts 15 seconds or more and is seen with movement.

Only 1 heart rate increase is seen, or the heart rate does not increase by more than 15 beats with movement.

Breathing movement

1 or more breathing movements last at least 60 seconds.

Breathing movement lasts less than 60 seconds, or no breathing is seen.

Body movement

3 or more movements of the arms, legs, or body

Less than 3 movements of the arms, legs, or body

Muscle tone

Arms and legs are usually flexed and the head rests on the chest. 1 or more extensions and return to flexion are seen, such as the opening and closing of a hand.

The fetus extends slowly and only returns partway to a normal position.

The fetus extends but does not return to a normal position.

The arms, legs, or spine are extended, or a hand is open.

Amniotic fluid volume (amniotic fluid index)
  • One or more pockets of amniotic fluid are seen in the uterus, each at least 1 cm (0.4 in.) wide and long.
  • The amniotic fluid index is between 5 cm (2 in.) and 24 cm (9.4 in.).2

Not enough amniotic fluid is seen in the uterus.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • The baby is in a position that makes doing an ultrasound difficult.
  • Being unable to lie still throughout the procedure, which can cause the picture of your baby to be unclear.
  • Being overweight, which may make it hard to correctly position the external monitoring device.
  • An infection in either you or your baby.
  • Low (hypoglycemia) or high (hyperglycemia) blood sugar levels.
  • Taking medicine, such as magnesium sulfate.
  • Steroids given to help the baby's lungs mature.
  • Using alcohol or illegal drugs, such as cocaine.
  • In rare cases, stool (feces) or air in the intestines or rectum interfering with the fetal ultrasound.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 18, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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