Non Stress Tests

Why have one?

Not everyone has had to have a Non Stress Test (NST). Routine NSTs are done if you have a high-risk pregnancy- gestational diabetes being the reason I have to get them. Maybe your blood pressure is off or maybe you’re having twins. There are a variety of reasons your doctor might order NSTs. They allow your medical team to keep a closer watch on the baby to make sure it’s still alive and not under duress. An NST can help spot complications before they turn into major issues. My cousin had two irregular NSTs and was told she’d have to induce early. Induction didn’t go so well so they had to do a C-section. It turns out her son had the umbilical cord wrapped around both his neck and his arm. Thankfully, they were able to get him out before there was any permanent damage.

What exactly is it?

You’ll have to lie down on a bed. Two monitors will be attached to your belly. One is an ultrasound that basically records the baby’s heart rate. The other measures your contractions, if any. What the doctor is looking for is two sets of good movement (signified by a rise and fall of the baby’s heart rate) within a 20 minute period.

What to expect and how to help

NSTs are performed twice a week, usually Mon/Thurs or Tues/Fri. They have to be decently spaced apart. I’ve always had to give urine at every NST, but urine tests are pretty standard when you’re pregnant.

Last time my NSTs were performed in a hospital. This time they are at my regular care facility. You’ll have to lie down on a bed, on your side. Sometimes it can be either side or you may have to stick to one side.

Bring a snack and something to do/read. Both my facilities provided water. Cold water helps get the baby moving, as will a snack. Keep in mind that you need two good accelerations within a 20 minute period. While 20 minutes is optimal, it could very well take an hour. If your kid is not moving around you’re not going to get accelerations, so you want to help your kid wake up. Eat something, drink water, roll over, or poke your belly. My daughter was a horrible NST subject and my appointments were frequently long. She always seemed to be napping during the tests. My son has been much better, though I did have to poke him to get him moving today.

Sometimes your kid will fall off the radar. My daughter was an expert at avoiding fetal monitors. If the heart rate numbers start varying wildly (eg. 245, —, 119, 78, 230) then your kid has probably moved out of range of the monitor. You can try moving it slightly yourself to see if you can get the beat going again or you may have to call the nurse. If NSTs are new to you I’d recommend calling the nurse first. I’ve had enough of these tests that I feel comfortable moving the monitor myself.

If you are having twins be prepared to be there a while. I have not had twins myself, but I’ve frequently had my NSTs at the same time as someone with twins. Getting both kids to cooperate appears to be a real pain.


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