Usually, amniocentesis (removing a small amount of the amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby in the womb) is not painful, and it is done within a few minutes. However, some women may experience mild pain and some discomfort during this procedure.
Some women may experience pain similar to that of period pain or may feel pressure while the needle is taken out. Some women may experience tightening inside the womb or may have little soreness for one day, which is very common.
You may experience more pain if
- You are more anxious.
- You have a history of cramps during menses.
- You have done amniocentesis in the past.
- The needle is inserted in the lower part of the womb.
What does amniocentesis mean?
Amniocentesis is a medical procedure used primarily for testing and diagnosing genetic (hereditary) abnormalities or infection in an unborn baby inside the mother’s womb and for sex determination.
It involves taking a small sample of the fluid that surrounds the unborn baby in the womb (amniotic fluid) so that the baby’s skin cells in the fluid can be tested.
When will your doctor suggest amniocentesis?
Your doctor or obstetrician may usually perform amniocentesis in 15 weeks of your pregnancy (rarely after 28 weeks) if you
- Are an older mother (aged ≥35 years).
- Or your partner has a hereditary (running in your family) condition or birth defects that may be passed on to the baby.
- Have a previous child born with a defect.
- Have received abnormal results from other tests such as an ultrasound, a nuchal translucency scan, a genetic test, or a blood test.
This test may be suggested by your doctor to detect some of the defects in your unborn baby such as follows:
- Down syndrome (a hereditary disease that causes developmental and intellectual delays)
- Sickle cell disease (a blood disorder)
- Cystic fibrosis (a hereditary disease that affects the lungs and digestive system)
- Muscular dystrophy (a hereditary disease that causes muscle damage)
- Spina bifida (spine and spinal cord defect)
- Anencephaly (a baby born with an underdeveloped brain or incomplete skull)
- Splits in the roof of the mouth and lip
- Heart defects
- Tay-Sachs (a rare, inherited disorder that destroys the brain nerve cells) and similar diseases
What happens during amniocentesis?
Before amniocentesis, your obstetrician will check the position of your baby and placenta in the womb with the help of an ultrasound scan.
During the procedure:
- The skin on your belly is cleaned with an antiseptic solution.
- Next, a fine needle is passed through your tummy into the womb, and the fluid is removed by using a syringe (about three teaspoonfuls).
- This fluid is then sent to a laboratory to check your unborn baby’s genes (a basic hereditary unit).
- Rarely, if your doctor is unable to get enough fluid at the first attempt, then they may reinsert the needle.
After the procedure:
- You should take things easy for a couple of days after the test.
- You should avoid any heavy weight-lifting, strenuous physical activity, or exercise.
- If you experience any discomfort in your belly that lasts more than 24 hours or if you have a fever, unusual vaginal discharge, or bleeding, you must see your obstetrician.
Are there any risks?
Amniocentesis has a small risk for both the mother and baby. Only 1%, that is, up to 1 woman in 100 may have pregnancy loss or miscarriage after amniocentesis due to some unknown reasons. In extremely rare cases, it may cause injury to the baby or mother, infection, or preterm delivery.
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American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Harris A, Monga M, Wicklund CA, Robbins-Furman PJ, Strecker MN, Doyle NM, Mastrobattista J. Clinical correlates of pain with amniocentesis. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2004 Aug;191(2):542-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2004.01.032. PMID: 15343234. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15343234/
Center for Human Genetics http://www.eurogentest.org/index.php?id=609
Sanford health https://news.sanfordhealth.org/womens/amniocentesis-what-to-expect/
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