Today, doctors can do a wide variety of tests during pregnancy to check on the health and development of your baby. In general, doing tests while pregnant has been proven very efficient and useful, as it is possible to prevent certain complications and health issues for both the mother and the child if they are discovered early. 

For some conditions, prevention is not an option. Still, testing gives the mother time to prepare and learn about the potential condition the baby might suffer from after birth. Therefore, it is seen as necessary and especially recommended for women with higher chances of delivering a baby with a genetic condition. 

Amniocentesis is one of the tests offered to pregnant women, and it is done to check whether the baby has a chromosomal or genetic condition such as Edwards’ syndrome, Down’s syndrome, Patau’s syndrome, etc. The procedure is quite simple – a sample of the amniotic fluid and cells is taken from the patient’s uterus and sent for analysis and testing. Although simple, this test also carries certain risks, which will be explained in more detail below. 

Performing an amniocentesis test can be risky, so your chosen medical professional needs to be skilled and experienced. Many clinics in the area offer this kind of service, but you need to make sure you pick the best one to keep yourself and your baby safe. Clinics such as ACE OBGYN have experienced people on their team, so take time to do proper research before scheduling an appointment for your amniocentesis. 

Why Is Amniocentesis Done?

Happy Pregnant Woman Talking With Doctor

It is important to note once more that amniocentesis is not done to all pregnant women but only to patients at higher risk of delivering a baby with a genetic condition. Your chosen medical provider will guide and advise you in case this situation happens to you and you need further testing. However, in the end, it is your decision if you want to do the test, so it is in no way mandatory.

An antenatal screening test has shown indications that the baby might have a certain genetic condition, so amniocentesis needs to be done to confirm the suspicion. What’s more, amniocentesis is also recommended when:

  • You previously had a baby with a genetic condition. 
  • You are older than 35 and pregnant. 
  • There is a family history of genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, sickle cell disease, thalassemia, etc. 
  • Searching for an infection in the child or other illnesses is necessary.
  • Draining amniotic fluid as there is too much of it in the womb (polyhydramnios) is required.
  • It’s important to check for the maturity of the baby’s lungs if the delivery is scheduled before week 39 of the pregnancy. 
  • Unusual findings of an ultrasound need to be further investigated.

The Procedure

The following step-by-step list of what the procedure looks like is important, so you can better prepare if you decide to do this test. 

  • The test is usually conducted between weeks 15 and 20 of the pregnancy, but you can take the test even later on in the pregnancy. 
  • Taking the test earlier than week 15 might involve additional risks, so it is usually not recommended.
  • You will be asked to sign a consent form before the test. 
  • It is recommended to bring someone with you for support.
  • The patient lies on their back, and the doctor shows them the baby’s position via an ultrasound image.
  • To extract the fluid, the doctor uses a thin, long needle, which is inserted into the amniotic sac through the abdomen. 
  • The whole process is accompanied by ultrasound imaging. 
  • A small sample of the fluid is taken and sent for further testing. 
  • The procedure lasts up to ten minutes, but the whole appointment might take around 30 minutes, with the pre-procedure consultation and preparations. 
  • You might experience cramping and pelvic pain after the procedure, but you can return to your daily routines right after the test.
  • Patients say that the procedure is not that painful but rather uncomfortable. 
  • The pain experienced during amniocentesis is often compared to period pain, followed by some pressure. No numbing medication is used during the procedure.
  • Usually, the results are available after three to five days, when you will be able to find out if your child has any of the previously mentioned conditions. 
  • For rarer conditions, the results can take longer, up to three weeks.
  • Unfortunately, most genetic conditions discovered through amniocentesis testing do not have a cure so the doctor will discuss your options in detail.
  • Women either decide to continue the pregnancy and prepare for everything the baby’s condition entails or end it. Both options should be thoroughly discussed with your chosen doctor.

What Can Amniocentesis Discover? 

When it comes to the results of the test, here are some conditions which can be discovered: 

  • Down’s syndrome: a condition where the child suffers from learning disabilities and delayed development 
  • Edwards’ syndrome: a condition that can result in stillbirth, severe learning disabilities, and physical problems
  • Patau’s syndrome: a condition with quite similar symptoms as Edwards’ syndrome
  • Cystic fibroids: when the digestive system and the lungs of the child are filled and clogged with mucus 
  • Muscular dystrophy: a condition that causes muscle weakness and progressive disability 
  • Sickle cell disease: a condition where the red blood cells of the child abnormally develop and cannot carry oxygen in the body
  • Thalassemia: when the red blood cells are affected and cause anemia, restriction in growth, and severe organ damages 

Risks of Amniocentesis 

Depressed Pregnant Woman Consultation With Psychologist

As with any other medical testing, certain risks need to be clearly articulated to the patients, so they can decide whether they want to proceed with the test. 

In regards to the risks of amniocentesis, here are the most important ones that need to be mentioned: 

  • Miscarriage is one of the main risks, and it occurs in one out of 200 women who do this test
  • Uterine infection 
  • Repeating the procedure because the first sample did not give the most accurate results 
  • Leaking amniotic fluid, which does not happen often, but it is a possible risk
  • Injury from the needle due to the potential movement of the baby during the procedure
  • Transmission of infection if the mother has HIV, hepatitis C, etc.
  • Rh sensitization, which occurs when the infant’s blood cells enter the mother’s bloodstream

Remember, the decision to have amniocentesis is entirely yours, so after the doctor explains all the potential benefits and risks, you can decide whether you want to have the test. 

Contact Our Clinic!

As mentioned, amniocentesis is not recommended for all pregnant women. It needs to be performed by an experienced specialist because the test involves certain risks for both the mother and the child. Regardless o whether you decide to do the test due to the results of an antenatal screening or your chosen medical provider advised it for other reasons, our team is ready to help you feel as comfortable as possible. Contact our clinic right away – we are here for you!