Health Pregnancy

A Guide to Amniocentesis

One of the pregnancy tests that is sometimes done during pregnancy is amniocentesis. The test involves extracting a sample of the amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby. Here is a brief guide what to expect...
by Patricia Hughes
doctor examing pregnant womanAmniocentesis is a medical test that is sometimes done in pregnancy. The test involves extracting a sample of the amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby. In this fluid are the baby’s chromosomes. These cells are collected and sent to a laboratory to be analyzed. It can take a week or more to get the results, depending on the testing done.

Reasons Amniocentesis is Used

  •  Chromosome analysis
  • Check lung maturity if preterm labor is a risk
  • Diagnose spina bifida
  • Obtain genetic information
  • Diagnose infection in the baby
  • The baby is at risk for certain disorders or disabilities
  • A family history of certain genetic disorders
  • A positive result on the alpha feto protein blood test. This is sometimes called the triple screen or quad screen.
There is some risk associated with amniocentesis. The biggest risk is miscarriage, which can occur in 1 in 200 women. Due to this risk, doctors tend to use amniocentesis only when the risk of a problem with the baby outweighs the risk the baby would be lost. In young women, the risk of a chromosomal abnormality is very low. As women get older, the risk of a problem increases dramatically. At the age of 35, the risk of a problem becomes a bit more than the risk of miscarriage.
The Procedure
The timing of the amniocentesis will depend on the reason for the procedure. For genetic and chromosomal testing, between fifteen and eighteen weeks is the optimal time. It is normal to feel nervous prior to the test. It may be a good idea to have your spouse accompany you for moral support and to drive you home after the test.
The amniocentesis is usually performed in the doctor’s office. An ultrasound is done before the needle is inserted into the abdomen to determine the position of the baby and find a good pocket of fluid. The needle is inserted and the sample of fluid taken. After the procedure is finished, the doctor will do another ultrasound to check the baby and look for leaks. In the vast majority of cases, the puncture hole made in the amniotic sac seals itself as soon as the needle is removed.
After the Amniocentesis
You will be instructed to rest for a day or two after the procedure. There may be restrictions on lifting during this time as well. If a problem is going to occur, it will happen in the days immediately following the procedure. Staying off your feet and resting can reduce the risk of a loss after the amniocentesis.
After the procedure comes the hard part. You will be waiting for the test results. Depending on the reason for the test, this wait can last up to three weeks. Waiting to hear that your baby is healthy is a very difficult time. Try to stay positive and spend some time doing things that you love. This will help the time pass quicker.
Call Your Doctor If:
  • You experience contractions or severe pain.
  • There is fluid leaking or gushing from the vagina.
  • You have a fever or flu like symptoms.
  • You experience vaginal bleeding or spotting. 
  • Or if anything just does not seem right, don’t hesitiate to call your doctor.
Patricia Hughes is a freelance writer and mother of four. Patricia has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Florida Atlantic University. She has written extensively on pregnancy, childbirth, parenting and breastfeeding. In addition, she has written about home décor and travel.

No part of this article may be copied or reproduced in any form without the express permission of More4Kids Inc © 2008
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