Amniocentesis

Definition

Amniotic fluid surrounds the baby during pregnancy. Amniocentesis is the removal of a small amount of this fluid for testing.

Amniocentesis
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Reasons for Procedure

Amniocentesis is most often done to see if there is an abnormality in your baby's genes (DNA). It can also be done to see if your baby is developing correctly. Later in pregnancy, it can be done to determine the maturity of your baby's lungs.

Factors that indicate that you may need this procedure include:

  • Age: over 35 years at the time of delivery
  • Family history of chromosome abnormality
  • Family history of inherited disorder
  • Family history of neural tube defect—problems in spine and brain growth, such as spina bifida or anencephaly
  • Abnormal results from early screening tests for chromosomal abnormalities

Depending on your risk factors, cells in the amniotic fluid are tested for:

  • Chromosome abnormalities. The results are usually ready within 14 days. Missing or extra chromosomes lead to physical birth defects and intellectual disability. Down's syndrome is one example.
  • Inherited genetic diseases—Test results are usually ready in 1-5 weeks. Examples include:

Amniocentesis may also be done:

  • To determine whether the baby's lungs are mature
  • In high-risk pregnancies that may require early delivery
  • There is concern for Rh-sensitization pregnancy

Possible Complications

Complications that may occur with an amniocentesis include:

  • Bleeding, cramping, and leaking fluid from the vagina
  • Infection
  • Mixing of blood if you and your baby have different blood types
  • Need for repeat testing
  • Harm to the fetus by the needle—Rare
  • Miscarriage—Rare

Factors that may increase your risk of complications include:

  • Maternal obesity
  • Previous abdominal surgery

Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.

What to Expect

Anesthesia

You may be given a local anesthesia. This numbs a small area in the abdomen where the needle will be placed.

Description of the Procedure

First, an ultrasound will be done. This will help to choose a safe spot to insert the needle. Your abdomen will be cleaned. Next, a very thin needle will be inserted through your abdomen into your uterus. A few teaspoons of amniotic fluid will be removed. After the needle is removed, the doctor will make sure that your baby's heartbeat is normal. In most cases, an ultrasound will be used throughout the procedure.

How Long Will It Take?

About 45 minutes.

Will It Hurt?

You may feel cramping when the needle enters your abdomen. You may also feel pressure when the fluid is withdrawn.

Post-procedure Care

A test showing a healthy baby is ideal. But, you will need to be prepared if the results show otherwise. If the test shows that your baby may have a genetic disorder, you may need to make tough decisions regarding your pregnancy. If you do continue with the pregnancy, then you will need to address your child's special needs. Your doctor can help you understand the pros and cons of having this test. Your doctor will work with you on options that are best for you after you know the results.

Call Your Doctor

After arriving home, contact your doctor if you have:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain or cramping in your lower abdomen or shoulder
  • Vaginal bleeding or a loss of fluid from the vagina
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the amniocentesis site
  • New, unexplained symptoms

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

Revisions

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