Amniocentesis is an invasive diagnostic test that can be performed during pregnancy. It checks if the fetus has any chromosomal abnormalities, that could lead to serious diseases like Down’s syndrome or other health problems. Doctors take an amniotic fluid sample from the mother’s uterus and test it for congenital problems. We can differentiate between genetic amniocentesis, described above and maturity amniocentesis. The second one is performed to check if the baby’s lungs are fully developed and ready for birth. No matter what type of amniocentesis you consider, I recommend you to read on an fully inform yourself about this procedure. It provides significant information about your babies health, but in the same time it’s invasive and comes with a few health risks!
When is Amniocentesis Recommended?
Genetic amniocentesis is recommended (after the 15th week) whenever a woman is considered at high risk of carrying a baby with chromosomal abnormalities. It should be the final test required to confirm or rule out chromosomal diseases. Reasons that lead to amniocentesis are:
– features of chromosomal abnormalities have been detected after an ultrasound scan of the fetus
– mother has had a previous pregnancy with genetic problems
– the pregnancy hormones resulted in the mother’s blood combined with her age indicate an increased risk of the baby developing Down’s syndrome.
– mother or father are concerned because they have a history with genetic problems in their family history
– mother is above 35 years of age.
– in this case amnioscentesis is recommended only in case of early delivery through C-section or induced birth, in order to check if the baby’s lungs are fully developed.
– it’s usually down between week 32 and 39 of pregnancy.
– in order to lower the volume of amniotic fluid
– to diagnose the baby in case of an infection or illness
– amnioscentesis can be also performed to look for Rhesus diseases.
How is Amniocentesis Performed
If a mother hasn’t reached week 20 of pregnancy she needs a full bladder during the procedure. Else the bladder must be empty.
This procedure takes only 10 to 15 minutes to be completed. A doctor needs to insert a large needle of a syringe in the woman’s uterus. He finds the right path with the help of an ultrasound. 20ml of amniotic fluid is extracted and sent for testing. Anesthesia isn’t required during the procedure because discomfort is mild.
The fetus will be fully unaware of this intervention. Mother has to rest 24 hours after amnioscentesis and could have a few cramps. It’s normal to experience a small bleeding after the procedure. However, you should contact your doctor right away, if fluid or blood is persistently leaking from the vagina, or if you experience any other troublesome symptoms.
Results & Accuracy
Amniocentesis preliminary results are available in 48 hours, while the final results should be provided three weeks later. It’s important to know that the accuracy of this procedure is extremely high, rated at 99.9% for identifying chromosomal problems.
If the outcome of this test highlights a genetic problem, parents will need to decide if they wish to carry on opt for pregnancy termination. Sadly, there is currently no treatment available for chromosomal abnormalities.
Last but not least we need to take a look at what risks mother and baby are exposed during amniocentesis:
– Miscarriage: Statistics show that between 0.5-1% of women that undergo this procedure end up with a miscarriage within 3 weeks after the intervention, if pregnancy is within its first 20 weeks.
Miscarriage risk decreases to 0.2-0.3% if done after the 20th week.
– Infection: An infection triggered by amniocentesis is very rare, but possible. However, if the mother has a virus like Hepatitis C, it could be passed to her baby during the needle insertion process.
– Fetus Injury: Baby could move during the procedure and the needle could injure the fetus. However serious injuries are very rare.
– Amniotic Leaks: It could rarely happen for the amniotic fluid to leak after this procedure. However if leak seals there is no problem. If it becomes chronic, the baby might develop orthopedic problems.