Amniocentesis: Everything You Need to Know About Amniocentesis

Typically, women perceive the needle puncture as a feeling of pressure, usually while the fluid is being withdrawn. Fear of the needle may make the procedure seem more painful than it really is. After the procedure, women may experience mild cramping. Rest is recommended until the cramping has subsided. Results are usually available within 10 days to three-and-one-half weeks, depending on the cell development in the sample, and the laboratory used.

Indications for second trimester amniocentesis include:

  • Advanced maternal age (35 or older)
  • Previous child or close family member with chromosomal abnormality (i.e. Trisomy 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 21, 22, Turner, & Cri du Chat syndrome)
  • Mother who is a carrier for a X-linked disease (i.e. hemophilia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy)
  • Family history or previous child born with neural tube defect
  • Elevated level of maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein (MSAFP)
  • Parents who are both known to be carriers of certain autosomal recessively inherited disorders (i.e. Tay-Sachs disease, Sickle cell trait)
  • Three or more spontaneous abortions
  • Maternal Rh sensitization (hemolytic disease)

Advantages of amniocentesis:

  • It is a simple and safe procedure that ascertains the status of the fetus.
  • Can be performed in a physician’s office
  • Relatively painless and short procedure
  • Complications are rare

Risks associated with amniocentesis:

  • There is minimal risk of damage to fetus, placenta, or umbilical cord.
  • Fetal loss of less than 0.6 percent
  • Puncture at a second site may be necessary if the practioner is unable to obtain sufficient fluid
  • Hemorrhage from a perforation of the placenta or vessels of umbilical cord
  • Mixing of fetal and maternal blood (Rho[D] immunoglobulin is given routinely after testing.)
  • Risks have been greatly minimized with the use of ultrasound visualization.

Parents need to be aware that there is a three percent chance of serious birth defects that an amniocentesis will not detect. Amniocentesis cannot guarantee the birth of a perfect baby.

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