Amniocentesis

October 6, 2011



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What is it?

An amniocentesis is a test in which your doctor takes a sample of amniotic fluid from the sac surrounding your baby. It involves having your doctor insert a thin needle into your abdomen to remove the fluid.

When is it performed?

Amniocentesis is usually performed between week 15 and week 19 of pregnancy. It may also be administered between 32 and 39 weeks of gestation to test whether the baby’s lungs are ready for birth.

An amniocentesis is performed in the doctor’s office and does not require a hospital stay.

What can the results tell you?

Amniocentesis can identify various genetic defects in the fetus. It can identify chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome, trisomy 13, and trisomy 18. It can identify neural tube defects such as spina bifida. It can also identify genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs, sickle cell disease, and a host of other genetic disorders.

Amniocentesis can also indicate Rh incompatibility and intrauterine infections.

What are the risks?

Amniocentesis is considered to be a reasonably safe test.

Amniocentesis carries a risk of miscarriage of about 1 in 200 (.5 percent) when performed before 24 weeks. Amniocentesis carries a risk of 2 to 5 in 100 (2-5 percent) when done before 14 weeks.

Miscarriage from amniocentesis generally occurs because of a rupture of the amniotic sac.

About 1 in 100 women will experience some leakage of amniotic fluid following amniocentesis. Bleeding occurs in 2-3 percent of women. These problems generally subside on their own with no treatment. Very rarely, an infection can occur.

Rarely, amniocentesis can cause fetal blood to enter the mother’s blood stream. If you are Rh negative and your baby is Rh positive, this could cause Rh disease.

There is a slight chance that the baby could be punctured by the needle. The test is generally guided by ultrasound, and this is very rare.

Reasons to have an amniocentesis

Amniocentesis is most commonly recommended when the mother will be 35 or older when the baby is born.

Your healthcare provider may recommend amniocentesis if you have had a previous pregnancy with chromosomal or neural tube abnormalities, if you have had an abnormal result from the AFP or triple test, or if either parent has a chromosomal abnormality or is the carrier of a genetic disease.

An amniocentesis is a voluntary test.

How accurate is an amniocentesis?

An amniocentesis is accurate in identifying many genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, but it can’t identify every birth defect. It is unable to detect problems such as heart defects, clubfoot, or cleft lip or palate.




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