Amniocentesis can be an essential test to assess your baby’s health.
When you are pregnant, your baby is surrounded by amniotic fluid. This fluid acts as a cushion for your baby and is also a key factor in determining its health. Amniocentesis is a procedure, through which a small amount of amniotic fluid is collected and tested for abnormalities in your growing baby. It also helps in making early decision regarding continuing the pregnancy or performing an early delivery.
What is amniocentesis?
Amniocentesis is an obstetric procedure, in which some amount of amniotic fluid from your uterus is removed and used for detecting abnormalities in your baby. This amniotic fluid surrounds your baby and provides him a physical as well as chemical cushion. Since it also contains some cells from the baby, checking it can help assess the health status of your baby.
The amniocentesis test is useful in detecting genetic abnormalities like spina bifida, Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis and also status of lungs related to its maturity outside the womb.
Why do I need to undergo amniocentesis procedure?
During pregnancy, several tests are performed as a routine screening test to check for your health status as well as the health status of your growing baby. When any routine test is suggestive of any developmental or genetic abnormalities in your baby, you might be asked to undergo an amniocentesis.
Here is a detailed list of indications when the doctor might ask for an amniocentesis procedure:
- If your age is over 35 years (this can risk your baby for genetic abnormalities like Down syndrome)
- If you or anyone in your family have previous history of genetic problems
- If you have a previous history of being pregnant with a child with birth defects
If any of the aforementioned factors are positive, then performing an early amniocentesis is of help for deciding between continuing the pregnancy or terminating it.
Apart from these, a relatively new indication for genetic amniocentesis is obtaining genetic information regarding your baby.
How is amniocentesis test carried out?
Amniocentesis is an OPD (outpatient department) procedure and you don’t not need to get admitted to the hospital or stay in hospital. The procedure will be carried out under the guidance of an ultrasound. You need to drink lots of fluid or water to fill up your bladder completely, for easing up the procedure.
Here are the amniocentesis procedure steps:
- First an ultrasound is performed for determining precise location of your baby
- After that, a numbing medication will be applied on some area on your belly
- An amniocentesis needle will be inserted through your belly into your womb, via the numbed area
- About 30 ml of amniotic fluid will be withdrawn for testing
This entire procedure takes about 2-3 minutes. Amniocentesis test results are usually available within 3-4 days.
Are there any risks of this procedure or chances of any complications?
Amniocentesis is usually performed between 15-20 weeks or during the 2nd trimester. There are few complications associated with it. Amniocentesis complications include:
- cramps in abdomen
- vaginal bleeding soon after procedure
- very rarely, the amniotic fluid leaks outside
- uterine infection, rarely
- If you are a known patient for Hepatitis C or HIV, then amniocentesis risks transmitting the infection to your baby
Sometimes, when early amniocentesis needs to be performed in high-risk cases, there is a small risk of miscarriage.
How are the amniocentesis test results interpreted?
Once the test results are ready, your obstetrician or a genetic counsellor will help in explaining the test results. Amniocentesis screens your baby for genetic disorders like:
- Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome or Patow syndrome
- Cystic fibrosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Tay-Sachs disease
- Neural tube defects
Amniocentesis test results also help in diagnosing milder forms of diseases like thalassaemia, sickle cell anaemia, and haemophilia. It is also very reliable in detecting baby’s lung maturity.
Also read: Hydramnios: Excess Amniotic Fluid