Fetal Biophysical Profile

This is a test that measures five different variables of the fetus: Heart rate, breathing movement, total movement of the baby, fetal muscle tone, the amount of amniotic fluid, and the heart rate activity of the fetus. The five variables are measured individually and contribute either a 2 or a 0 to the overall scoring of the test. The measurements are as follows:

  • Fetal heart rate activity . This is measured and scored in the same way as a non-stress test. The fetal heart rate is considered reactive when there are movement-associated fetal heart rate increases of at least 15 beats per minute above baseline, and 15 seconds in duration over a 20-minute period. A score of 2 is given for reactivity, and a score of 0 indicates that the fetal heart rate is non-reactive.

  • Fetal breathing movements . This is scored based on fetal breathing movements and indicate fetal well-being. Their absence may indicate a low oxygen level for the fetus. Fetal breathing increases in frequency and uniformity after the 36th week of pregnancy. To earn a score of 2, the fetus must have at least one episode of fetal breathing lasting at least 60 seconds within a 30-minute observation. Absence of this breathing is scored a 0 on the BPP.

  • Fetal body movements . Fetal activity is a reflection of brain integrity and function. The presence of at least three episodes of fetal movements within a 30-minute period is given a score of 2. A score of 0 is given with two or less movements in this time period. Fetal activity is highest 1 to 3 hours after the mother has eaten a meal.

  • Fetal tone . In the uterus, the fetus is normally in a position of flexion. This means the head is bent down towards the knees. The fetus also stretches, rolls, and moves in the uterus. The arms, legs, trunk, and head may be flexed and extended. A score of 2 is earned when there is at least one episode of active extension with return flexion. A score of 0 is given for slow extension with a return to only partial flexion. Fetal movement not followed by return to flexion, limbs or spine in extension, and an open fetal hand score 0.

  • Amniotic fluid volume . Amniotic fluid volume has been demonstrated to be a good method of predicting fetal distress. Too little amniotic fluid has been associated with fetal abnormalities, slow uterine growth, and over due pregnancy. A score of 2 is given for this when there is at least one pocket of amniotic fluid that measures 1 cm in a specific area. A score of 0 indicates either that fluid is absent in most areas of the uterine cavity or that the largest pocket of fluid measures less than 1 cm.


No preparation or fasting is necessary.


  • A score of 8-10 points (if amniotic fluid volume is adequate).

  • Possible critical values: Less than 4 may necessitate immediate delivery of fetus.

Ranges for normal findings may vary among different laboratories and hospitals. You should always check with your doctor after having lab work or other tests done to discuss the meaning of your test results and whether your values are considered within normal limits.


Your caregiver will go over the test results with you and discuss the importance and meaning of your results, as well as treatment options and the need for additional tests if necessary.


It is your responsibility to obtain your test results. Ask the lab or department performing the test when and how you will get your results.