Birth Definitions

Biophysical Profile Definition


A biophysical profile (BPP) is a test used to assess the well-being of a fetus during pregnancy. The test combines an ultrasound examination with a non-stress test (NST). The ultrasound component of a biophysical profile assesses the volume of amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus. The NST component assesses the fetal heart rate in response to fetal movement. The BPP can be considered as the intrauterine version of an Apgar score performed during labor; it may be used to assess neonatal acidosis at delivery more accurately than the Apgar score.

A biophysical profile is typically performed during the third trimester of pregnancy, usually around the 32nd week. The following measures are used to assess fetal status during the third trimester:

Acute indicators

  • fetal heart rate reactivity [FHR-R]
  • fetal breathing [FB] movements
  • fetal gross body movements [FM]
  • fetal tone

Long-term indicators of the fetus and womb condition

  • amniotic fluid volume [AFV]
  • placental grading

The test is considered to be generally safe for both mother and fetus. It may be performed if there are concerns about the well-being of the fetus, such as decreased fetal movement, and abnormal results on a prenatal.

The complications associated with BPP are very rare but may include false-positive and false-negative results. A false-positive result may lead to unnecessary interventions, such as induction of labor or cesarean delivery. A false-negative result may lead to a delay in necessary interventions, such as delivery.

A BPP is not a perfect test, and it cannot definitively tell if a fetus is in distress. However, the test can give important information about the well-being of the fetus and help doctors make decisions about the care of the pregnant woman and her fetus.

Some of the terms associated with the tebiophysical profile are:

  • Ultrasound
  • Non-stress test
  • Fetal heart rate
  • Fetal movement
  • Prenatal screening
  • Pregnancy
  • Birthing

This image shows how often the term ‘Biophysical Profile’ is used in relation to other, similar birth terms:

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