Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Biophysical Profile: About This Test

Main Content

Biophysical Profile: About This Test

Ultrasound of a pregnant woman's belly

What is it?

A biophysical profile (BPP) measures the health of your baby during your pregnancy. The BPP checks your baby's heart rate, muscle tone, movement, and breathing. It also measures the amount of amniotic fluid around your baby. Looking at these five areas helps your doctor or midwife know how well your baby is doing.

Why is this test done?

A BPP is often done in the last trimester of pregnancy when there is any question about how the baby is doing. For high-risk pregnancies, this test may be done every week or twice a week during later pregnancy.

How do you prepare for the test?

  • If you smoke, you will be asked to stop smoking for 2 hours before testing. This is because smoking affects the baby's heart rate and movements.
  • You may be asked to drink water or other liquids just before testing. You will be able to empty your bladder after the test.

How is the test done?

The BPP includes a fetal ultrasound and usually includes a non-stress test. For the tests, you will lie back on a padded exam table. If you become short of breath or light-headed while lying on your back, say so. The technician can help you change your position.

Non-stress test

  • Two elastic belts with sensors are placed across your belly. One sensor tracks your baby's heart rate with reflected sound waves (Doppler ultrasound). The other sensor measures how long your contractions are, if you are having any.
  • You may hear your baby's heartbeat as a beeping sound. You may see it printed out on a chart.
  • You may be asked to push a button on the machine when your baby moves or you have a contraction. This helps your doctor or midwife look at how your baby's heart reacts to movement and contractions.
  • If there isn't much movement, it may be because the baby is asleep. If this happens during your test, the technician may try to wake the baby with a loud noise or by having you eat or drink something.

Fetal ultrasound

  • A gel will be spread on your belly. This helps the passage of sound waves.
  • A small, hand-held sensor will be pressed against the gel on your skin and moved across your belly a few times.
  • You may be able to watch the screen to see the picture of your baby during the test.

How long does the test take?

  • The non-stress test will take about 20 to 40 minutes.
  • The fetal ultrasound will take about 30 to 60 minutes.

What happens after the test?

  • The doctor or midwife will read the results from the test and talk to you about them. You will also find out if more testing is needed.
  • You will probably be able to go home right away. It depends on the reason for the test.
  • You can go back to your usual activities right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter X659 in the search box to learn more about "Biophysical Profile: About This Test".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.