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Contraction Stress Test

How It Is Done continued...

The hormone oxytocin is given in a low dose and increased until you have three contractions within 10 minutes, each one lasting longer than 45 seconds. Or you may be asked to massage one of your nipples by hand to start contractions. If you don't have a second contraction within 2 minutes of the first, you will massage your nipple again. If contractions do not occur within 15 minutes, you will stimulate both nipples.

After the test, you will be watched until your contractions go away or slow down to what they were before the test. A contraction stress test may take 2 hours.

How It Feels

You may need to lie on your left side for the test. This position may be uncomfortable or painful when you are having labor contractions. The belts holding the sensors may be uncomfortable. Most women say this test is uncomfortable but not painful.

Risks

Fetal heart monitoring may indicate that your baby is having problems when your baby is actually healthy. Fetal heart monitoring can't detect every type of problem, such as a birth defect.

The risks from having oxytocin include:

  • Causing labor to start earlier than your expected delivery date.
  • Causing prolonged contractions that may cause problems with your baby. The contractions usually stop when the oxytocin is stopped. You may be given a medicine to stop the contractions. If in the very rare case that your contractions do not stop, your doctor may recommend delivery.

Results

A contraction stress test checks to see if your unborn baby (fetus) will stay healthy during the reduced oxygen levels that normally occur during contractions when you are in labor.

Results of the test tell your baby's health for 1 week. The test may need to be done more than once during your pregnancy.

Contraction stress test1
Normal:

Normal test results are called negative.

Your baby's heart rate does not get slower (decelerate) and stay slow after the contraction (late decelerations). Note: There may be a few times during the test when your baby's heart rate decelerates, but it doesn't stay slow so it is not a problem.

If three contractions occur during a 10-minute period of nipple stimulation or oxytocin infusion and there are no late decelerations in your baby's heart rate, your baby is expected to be able to handle the stress of labor.

Abnormal:

Abnormal test results are called positive.

Your baby's heart rate gets slower (decelerates) and stays slow after the contraction (late decelerations). This happens on more than half of the contractions.

Late decelerations may mean that your baby will have problems during normal labor.

What Affects the Test

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

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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