Pronounced: am-KNEE-o-sen-TEE-sisEn Español (Spanish Version)
Amniocentesis is the removal of a small amount of fluid from the uterus (womb). This fluid, called amniotic fluid, surrounds a developing baby.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Reasons for Procedure
Amniocentesis is most often done to see if there is an abnormality in your baby's genes (DNA). It can also be done to see if your baby is developing correctly.
Some things may make your doctor more concerned that there may be a problem:
- Mother is over 35 years old (at the time of delivery)
- Family history of chromosome abnormality
- Family history of inherited disorder
- Family history of neural tube defect (problems in spine and brain growth, such as spina bifida or anencephaly)
- To determine whether the baby's lungs are mature
- Abnormal results from earlier blood screening test, such as maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP)
Depending on your risk factors, the cells are tested for:
- Chromosome abnormalities—This testing detects most chromosome abnormalities. The results are usually ready within 14 days. Missing or extra chromosomes lead to physical birth defects and intellectual disability . The most common is Down syndrome . This is caused by an extra #21 chromosome.
- Inherited genetic diseases—Test results are usually ready in 1-5 weeks. Examples include:
Although a test showing a healthy baby without a genetic disorder is ideal, you will need to be prepared if the results show otherwise. If the test shows that your baby may have a genetic disorder, it may require you to make tough decisions regarding your pregnancy, such as whether or not to continue it. If you do continue with the pregnancy, then you will need to address concerns, such as planning for a child with special needs. Your doctor can help you understand the pros and cons of having this test, as well as work with you on options that are best for you once you know the results.
If you are planning to have an amniocentesis, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
- Miscarriage —less than 1% risk
- Bleeding, cramping, and leaking fluid from the vagina
- Harm to the fetus by needle (rare)
- Mixing of blood if you and your baby have different blood types
- Need for repeat testing
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
- Maternal obesity
- Previous abdominal surgery
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.
What to Expect
Your doctor may give you local anesthesia. This numbs a small area in the abdomen where the needle will be placed.
Description of the Procedure
This is usually done when you are 16 weeks pregnant.
First, your doctor will do an ultrasound to choose a safe spot to insert the needle. Your abdomen will be cleaned. Next, the doctor will insert a very thin needle through the abdomen into the uterus. A few teaspoons of amniotic fluid will be taken out. After the needle is removed, the doctor will make sure that your baby's heartbeat is normal. In most cases, an ultrasound will be used throughout the procedure.
How Long Will It Take?
About 45 minutes—20 minutes to locate the fetus and insert the needle, 5 minutes to withdraw the fluid, 15-20 minutes to rest after the procedure
Will It Hurt?
You may feel cramping when the needle enters your uterus. You may also feel pressure when the fluid is withdrawn.
When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
- For the first few hours, avoid physical stress.
- Rest for the first 24 hours. Avoid heavy exercise and sexual activity for 24 hours.
- Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions .
Most women will have normal results.
Call Your Doctor
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pain or cramping in the lower abdomen or shoulder
- Vaginal bleeding or a loss of fluid from the vagina
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the amniocentesis site
- New, unexplained symptoms
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists
March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation
The Canadian Women's Health Network
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Invasive Prenatal Testing for Aneuploidy, Practic Bulletin No. 88, December 2007; Reaffirmed 2009.
Amniocentesis. March of Dimes website. Available at: http://search.marchofdimes.com/cgi-bin/MsmGo.exe?grab_id=4&page_id=6883072&query=amniocentesis&hiword=amniocentesis+ . Accessed June 5, 2008.
Chorionic villus sampling (CVS). American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/prenataltesting/cvs.html. Updated April 2006. Accessed December 17, 2010.
Later childbearing. American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/publications/patient_education/bp060.cfm . Accessed June 5, 2008.
Last reviewed September 2011 by Ganson Purcell Jr., MD, FACOG, FACPE
Last updated Updated: 9/20/2011
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2010 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.