Amniocentesis is a procedure in which a small amount of amniotic fluid (the fluid present around the unborn baby in the uterus) is removed for testing or treatment purposes. The amniotic fluid contains fetal cells and various proteins.
Analyzing the fetal cells in the amniotic fluid can help assess the health of a baby even before birth. Amniocentesis can test for various conditions in the baby while still in the uterus, such as genetic abnormalities, and analyze lung maturity of the baby and other illnesses.
The test results of amniocentesis can help analyze the development of the unborn baby inside the womb. The information obtained from the test can help the parents make decisions about the pregnancy and their desire to continue the pregnancy. The tests help doctors design a treatment plan during pregnancy and after childbirth. The doctors would be able to be ready to manage and prevent complications.
Why is amniocentesis done?
Amniocentesis can be done to test for the following:
- Genetic testing: Testing the amniotic fluid can help diagnose genetic disorders such as Down syndrome, spina bifida, or cystic fibrosis. Amniocentesis to test for genetic abnormalities is usually performed in the second trimester after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
- Fetal lung maturity testing: Testing the maturity of the fetal lung can help determine whether a baby's lungs are mature enough for birth. Amniocentesis to determine the baby’s lung maturity is usually performed later in the course of pregnancy between 32 and 39 weeks.
- Diagnosis of fetal infections: Amniotic fluid testing can be done to evaluate the baby for infection or other illness.
- As a treatment procedure: Amniocentesis may be done as a treatment procedure for conditions such as polydraminos. Polyhydraminos is a condition in which there is an excess accumulation of the amniotic fluid during pregnancy. Amniocentesis may be done to drain excess amniotic fluid from the uterus.
- Paternity testing: Fetal cells in the amniotic fluid can be analyzed for DNA paternity testing.
Amniocentesis is highly indicated in the following cases:
- Positive results from a prenatal screening test indicate the possibility of abnormalities. Amniocentesis is done to confirm or rule out a diagnosis.
- Having another child with a genetic abnormality
- Babies born to women aged 35 years and older have a higher risk of chromosomal conditions such as Down syndrome. Your healthcare provider might suggest amniocentesis to rule out these conditions.
- You have a family history of a specific genetic condition or you or your partner is a known carrier of a genetic condition
- Abnormal ultrasound findings during routine examinations during pregnancy
When should amniocentesis not be done?
Amniocentesis is usually not advised in the following cases:
- An active infection in the mother
- Human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS)
- Hepatitis B or C infections
Similarly, the above infections can be transmitted to the baby during amniocentesis.
How is amniocentesis performed?
During the procedure: The patient is made to lie on the back and an ultrasound is usually done prior to amniocentesis to determine the baby's exact location in the uterus. The abdomen is cleaned with an antiseptic. Anesthesia is usually not used, but most women experience mild or no discomfort during the procedure. A long and thin needle is inserted through the abdomen and into the uterus under ultrasound guidance. A small amount of amniotic fluid is aspirated into a syringe, and the needle is removed. The fluid is then sent to the lab for analysis.
After the procedure: The patient may be required to stay in the clinic or hospital for a few hours to monitor the baby’s vitals after the procedure. Some patients may experience mild cramping or pelvic discomfort, which usually resolves. Patients can resume normal activities after the procedure, but exercise and sexual activity should be avoided for two or three days.
What are the complications of amniocentesis?
Amniocentesis carries various risks including:
- Leaking amniotic fluid: Although rare, the amniotic fluid leaks through the vagina after amniocentesis, but usually, only a small amount is lost and stops within a week.
- Miscarriage: There is a small risk of miscarriage in second-trimester amniocentesis. The risk of miscarriage is higher following amniocentesis when it’s done before 15 weeks of pregnancy.
- Rh sensitization: During amniocentesis, the baby's blood cells may enter the mother's bloodstream. If there is an Rh-negative or Rh-positive blood group mismatch between the mother and baby, it can cause serious complications.
- Infection: Uterine infection can occur following amniocentesis.
- Infection transmission: Infections in the mother such as hepatitis B or C, toxoplasmosis, and sexually transmitted diseases can transmit to the baby during the procedure.
- Needle injury: Because the needle is long (but thin), it could injure the baby if they move an arm or a leg, but these injuries are rarely serious.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top What Does Amniocentesis Test For? Related Articles
AmniocentesisDuring an amniocentesis, a sample of the amniotic fluid is taken to screen for certain birth defects (Down's syndrome, neural tube defects, spina bifida, cystic fibrosis), lung maturity of the fetus, infection, or chromosome analysis. Amniocentesis is recommended for women giving birth after the age of 35.
Babies QuizTake the Babies Quiz to learn what milestones and developments you can expect from your baby’s first year.
Baby's First Year: Milestones Month by MonthWhen do babies learn to crawl? Start teething? Learn about major milestones in your baby's first months. Get tips on how to help baby learn, grow, and develop into a healthy toddler.
Get the Facts About Bottle FeedingDo you need to warm a bottle? What's the best way to burp your baby? Find out what you need to know about bottle feeding and infant formula.
Better Ways to Feed Your BabyWhat tips and tricks help you introduce healthy foods to your baby's diet. Learn techniques for feeding that work for infants and young children, why babies are such messy eaters, and how your child learns by eating new foods and exploring vegetables, fruits, and other healthy meals.
Fetal Movement (Quickening): Feeling Baby KickPregnancy can be one of the most joyous time in a couples life. Learn what your baby's first movements may feel like week by week, how often you may feel them, what time of day the baby is most active, and what to do if you feel your baby is not moving as much as you feel it should be moving.
How Do You Diagnose Spinal Muscular Atrophy?Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a genetic condition that results in weakness and wasting of muscles in infants. For diagnosing spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), certain tests are carried out to check if your child has this condition.
Crying & Colic SlideshowLearn top parenting tricks for calming crying, colicky, and fussy newborns and babies.
Stillbirth (Stillborn Baby)About 1% of pregnancies overall result in stillbirth, meaning that there are about 24,000 stillborn births each year in the U.S. A number of diseases and conditions as well as problems with the pregnancy or health of the mother can all be causes of stillbirth. The most common symptom of stillbirth is not feeling the baby moving or kicking.
Why Is Amniocentesis Done in Polyhydramnios?Amniocentesis may be done for various diagnostic and therapeutic reasons. Amnioreduction helps in the treatment of polyhydramnios. This is a condition in which the amount of the amniotic fluid is more than what it should be for the gestational age.