Amniocentesis is the process of testing the amniotic fluid from the uterus. A small needle is inserted via abdomen into the uterus for removing few drops of amniotic fluid that surrounds the fetus. This test is done if there is any suspicion on the growth of the fetus and to rule out any genetic abnormality. Amniotic fluid is nothing but water like substance in which the fetus lives before birth. It contains important proteins and skin cells of the fetus that helps in diagnosing any abnormality in the fetus.
For what reasons amniocentesis is done?
Amniocentesis is not done for all pregnant women. Only if the doctor suspects certain abnormality in the fetus with regard to his growth and features, she may order for this test.
When it can be done?
Amniocentesis can be done at different stages of pregnancy. Often doctors recommend amniocentesis anywhere from 15th week till 32nd week, depending on the individual case.
Impact of Results :
If you have family history of genetic disorders, if you get positive results during prenatal screening test, amniocentesis is done. The result of amniocentesis test will throw light about various health issues of the fetus. Sometimes it can determine whether you would continue the pregnancy or not. Women diagnosed with chromosomal abnormality in the fetus or with Down’s syndrome will have to make decisions about proceeding with the pregnancy.
This procedure can be done anytime during the pregnancy. Genetic amniocentesis is done if the mother is having neural tube defect or abnormal chromosomal condition or if she is above 35 years or if she or her partner has any family history of genetic problem. This test can determine whether the fetus has Down’s syndrome or congenital heart problem or cystic fibrosis. If your doctor suspects any abnormality in the lungs, then she may perform amniocentesis after 32 weeks of pregnancy.
In some cases, maturity amniocentesis is done to prevent any complications for the mother during delivery. Amniocentesis is also performed to rule out any serious illness or infectious diseases on the fetus. Babies with Rh sensitization are prone to severe anemia in which case this test is done to test the baby’s blood cells. Amniocentesis is done if the doctor suspects any placental problems or premature labor or weak cervical tissue or if the mother is unable to continue pregnancy for any reason.
Women having children with birth defect should undergo amniocentesis for the second child to rule out any anomalies. This test can give information about the baby’s growth and whether he/she has any illnesses like sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis or muscular dystrophy. In some women, this is done to reduce the quantity of amniotic fluid in the uterus.
What is the risk involved with amniocentesis?
The procedure of amniocentesis involves only slight risk and in very rare cases it can cause miscarriage. Miscarriage can happen if the test is done prior to 15th week of pregnancy. In rare cases, amniotic fluid can leak into your vagina for which your doctor would suggest alternative remedy. In extremely rare cases the needle can cause injury to the moving fetus. Similarly in very rare cases this test can pass on the infection from the mother to the baby.
The Process of Testing :
Before actually doing amniocentesis your doctor or gynecologist will make sure that conducting such test is beneficial for the fetus as well as the mother. She will use ultrasound scan to find out the exact location of your baby inside the uterus. You will have to lie on your back in relaxed state. Your doctor will apply gel like substance on your abdomen to check the baby’s position. She will then clean the upper layer of the abdomen using antiseptic solution.
Subsequently a thin long needle is inserted into the uterus through the abdominal wall. An ounce (or even lesser) of amniotic fluid is collected through the syringe and the needle will gently be removed. The entire procedure can take anywhere from 20-30 minutes. Some women may get slight cramps in the lower abdomen during or after the testing. Your doctor will repeat the ultrasound scan to check the baby’s condition.
This procedure can cause vaginal bleeding in some women only for few minutes. You can get back home safely and be on rest for a day or two. You should contact your doctor if there is continuous vaginal bleeding, severe cramps on the abdomen, fluid leakage from the vagina, or if there is unusual fetal activity inside the uterus. Results of the test might take 2-4 days depending on the case. Your doctor or health care provider will communicate the results to you and your partner.