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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Tests and Exams > Biophysical Profile

Biophysical Profile

Alternate Names : BPP

Overview & Description | Preparation & Expectations | Results and Values

A biophysical profile (BPP) is a way to check the status of a developing baby, or fetus. A BPP includes a pregnancy ultrasound, which is a type of X-ray test that uses sound waves. A BPP also includes checking the baby's heart rate for a period of time. This part of the test is also called a nonstress test. A BPP is usually done in the last 3 months, or third trimester, of pregnancy.

Who is a candidate for the test?

The healthcare provider may order a BPP if there is concern about the health of the baby. A BPP may be ordered if the mother has one or more of the following health problems:

  • autoimmune disorder, which is a condition in which the body creates antibodies against its own tissues for no known reason
  • certain kidney, lung, or heart diseases
  • chronic high blood pressure
  • drug addiction
  • history of miscarriage or stillbirth
  • HIV or AIDS
  • preeclampsia, a type of high blood pressure that can occur during pregnancy
  • recent car accident or other trauma
  • sickle cell anemia, which results in abnormal red blood cells
  • A BPP may be done if the healthcare provider suspects problems with the pregnancy, such as:

  • certain problems with the placenta, which attaches the baby to the mother
  • early rupture of the membranes that surround and protect the baby in the womb
  • a pregnancy that lasts longer than 41 to 42 weeks
  • Rh incompatibility between mother and baby
  • too little or too much amniotic fluid, the fluid surrounding the baby
  • A BPP may also be ordered because of problems in the developing fetus, including:

  • a baby that is developing too slowly
  • decreased movements of the baby as felt by the mother
  • an infant with known birth defects
  • multiple pregnancy, such as twins or triplets
  • How is the test performed?

    During the procedure, the mother lies on her left side to maximize blood flow to the baby. The healthcare provider usually does a nonstress test first. This involves pasting electrodes on the skin of the mother's abdomen. The baby's heart tracing is then recorded through the skin painlessly. This is followed by a detailed pregnancy ultrasound. The BPP results in a score of zero to 10. Each part of the profile may receive a score of zero or 2. The higher the score, the better. The scoring is as follows:

  • amniotic fluid volume. A baby receives a score of 2 if there is a normal amount of amniotic fluid. Too little amniotic fluid results in a score of zero.
  • fetal body movements. A score of 2 is given for normal, active body movements. A score of zero means absent or decreased movements.
  • fetal breathing movements. The baby gets a score of 2 if he or she has normal breathing activity. A score of zero is given for an absence of normal breathing activity.
  • fetal tone. The baby gets a score of 2 if his or her arms and legs are flexed with one episode of stretching or extending the limbs. A score of zero means the baby didn't move or doesn't have normal flexed arm and leg positions.
  • nonstress test. The baby gets a score of 2 if the heart rate is normal over time. If the heart is not normal, the baby gets a score of zero.


    Next section


    Biophysical Profile: Preparation & Expectations

    Author: Eva Martin, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/05/01

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