How can I tell if my baby is healthy during my pregnancy?

A biophysical profile is a prenatal ultrasound evaluation for fetal wellbeing. A biophysical profile is a prenatal test that assesses whether your baby is getting oxygen in the womb. Low biophysical profile scores may help predict the need for a cesarean section or whether a baby will need specialty care after a delivery. A biophysical profile is commonly done in the last trimester of pregnancy.

The biophysical profile has five components: 4 ultrasound assessments and a non-stress test. A biophysical profile measures the health of your baby during pregnancy and measures your baby's heart rate, muscle tone, movement, breathing and a non-stress test. If these five areas are within normal limits, your baby is considered to be in good health. 

With muscle tone, the arms and legs of your baby are usually flexed and the head rests on the chest.  Normal muscle tone is when your baby has one or more extensions and return to flexion, such as the opening and closing of the hand. Abnormal muscle tone is when the baby extends, but does not return to a normal position, or the arms, legs or spine are extended or a hand is open.

As for the assessment of body movement, normal is 3 or more movements of the baby's arms, legs or body.  Abnormal body movement is less than 3 movements of the arms, legs or body (0 points).

The results on the biophysical profile are scores on five measurements in a 30-minute observation period.  A score of four or less on the biophysical profile may mean your baby is having problems. A biophysical profile score of 8 to 10 is generally considered reassuring.

A non-stress test assesses increases in your baby's heart rate with movement. Two or more heart rate increases of 15 beats per minute or more are seen with movement (normal=2 points).  A non-stress test asesses whether your baby's heart rate changes when he/she is moving.

Another more basic method of assessing fetal wellbeing is the mother's assessment of fetal movement.  The absence of fetal movement can be a sign that your baby is having problems.

If you suspect a problem with your baby, you can ask your doctor or midwife for a biophysical profile and a non-stress test to assess the wellbeing of your baby.