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Amniocentesis explained

Amniocentesis explained

Mothers undergo a variety of tests during their prenatal appointments. Some are necessary in order to ensure you and your baby’s well-being, and your provider will explain these to you. Others tests, such as amniocentesis, are optional. The decision to have an amniocentesis will be based on your individual needs and health history.

How is it done?

Amniocentesis, sometimes called an “amnio,” is performed during the second trimester of pregnancy, usually between 16 and 20 weeks. The procedure is typically done in the hospital. A needle is carefully inserted into your abdomen to collect a sample of amniotic fluid. Ultrasound is typically used to guide the needle for maximum safety. Afterward, you will go home and be advised to rest for the remainder of the day, and you may have minor pain or cramping.

What does it tell me?

The sample of amniotic fluid gives your health care provider a “picture” of your baby’s chromosomes. It can detect many chromosomal and genetic disorders, including:

  • Down syndrome
  • Trisomy 13 or trisomy 18
  • Turner syndrome
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Some neural tube defects, including spina bifida

Although the test is very good at detecting these and other genetic or chromosomal disorders, it cannot detect all birth defects. Any pregnant woman can choose to get an amniocentesis, but not all do, mainly because it can cause some discomfort and there is a small risk of miscarriage – approximately 1 in 300 to 500. Many of the women who choose to have an amnio have a history of genetic or chromosomal abnormalities in their family, or may be carriers for certain diseases like cystic fibrosis. In some cases, an ultrasound or first trimester screening may have indicated a possible problem, and the amnio can provide more information.

Making the decision

You will likely meet with a genetic counselor before having an amnio. This meeting can help clarify your personal risk of having a baby with these disorders before you make your decision about having the test.

Ultimately, the decision to have an amnio is really up to each individual mother and/or family. Your obstetrician can answer your questions about the test so you can make an informed decision. Only you know what is right for you and your baby, and your physician will support your choice either way.

CarePoint Health Family Birth Centers

CarePoint Health is dedicated to providing you with the individual care and attention you need so you can relax and focus on what is most important — the birth of your new baby. Contact us today to learn more about our obstetrics and maternity services.

Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.

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