Since 1882, millions of pregnant women have undergone a test called amniocentesis. You may know someone who has had this pregnancy test performed or you may have had it done yourself. An amniocentesis is a common prenatal test used to analyze the amniotic fluid surrounding your baby in the fifteenth week of pregnancy.

Do I Need Amniocentesis?

You may be recommended to have an amniocentesis for a variety of reasons, some of which are:

  • You are over the age of 35
  • You received abnormal screening test results
  • You have had a previous pregnancy with a chromosome abnormality or birth defect
  • You have a family history of genetic disorders
  • An infection in either you or your baby is suspected

For whatever reason an amniocentesis has been recommended to you, you should consider all your options, as there are medical risks involved.

How is the Procedure Done?

An amniocentesis can be performed in the doctor’s office and takes about 45 minutes. For this prenatal test, you will undress and lie down on an examination table. The doctor will use an ultrasound to determine where the baby is located so as not to prick your baby with the needle.

Your abdomen will be disinfected with an antiseptic and you may possibly be given a local anesthetic. The doctor will administer a needle through your abdomen to extract amniotic fluid from your uterus.

What It Feels Like

During an amniocentesis, you may feel a stinging sensation from the needle and possibly mild cramps during the procedure. After the test,you may feel weak or nauseated and you are advised to not perform any hard labor for a few hours.

If you experience any dizziness, fever, severe cramps, fluid or blood leaking, or swelling at the needle entry, point you should contact your doctor.

Genetic or Maturity Amniocentesis?

Genetic Amniocentesis

A genetic amniocentesis will test for abnormal chromosomes or genes found in the cells of your amniotic fluid. This testing can reveal if your baby has Down syndrome or spina bifida. Some genetic results can be ready in a few days while others may take from two to three weeks.

If your doctor suspects your baby may be at risk for conditions such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, hemophilia, or fetal anemia, she will use amniocentesis to look for these disorders.

An amniocentesis can also diagnose infections in your uterus and the compatibility of your blood with your baby’s blood. However, amniocentesis cannot detect common birth defects, such as cleft lip and palate, club foot or heart defects.

Table of Contents
1. Is amniocentesis for you?
2. Is amniocentesis risky?
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