When you are pregnant, it is only natural to want to know that your baby is healthy.
One prenatal test that can provide information about your baby’s health is an amniocentesis.
It is most often performed when you are about 12 to 16 weeks pregnant, though it can also be performed closer to delivery to see if your baby’s lungs are fully developed.
In an amniocentesis, your doctor uses an ultrasound probe to determine the position of your baby and placenta, and to locate a pocket of amniotic fluid.
Then a long needle is inserted through your abdomen into that pocket of fluid and about two tablespoons full are withdrawn.
Your body is constantly replacing and renewing amniotic fluid, and will make up for this withdrawal in only a short period of time. The fluid is then delivered to a laboratory for study and analysis.
What can an amniocentesis tell you? The most important reason an amniocentesis is performed is when certain genetic problems, including Tay-sachs Disease and Hunter’s Syndrome are suspected. The test can also reveal information about spinal defects, chromosomal abnormalities (such as Down’s Syndrome), as well as the baby’s gender.
The risks with amniocentesis include bleeding, infection, premature rupture of your amniotic sac, and miscarriage. Your baby, placenta and the baby’s umbilical cord can also be injured with the needle, although this is not very common with an experienced doctor.
Amniocentesis is most commonly offered to mothers who are 35 or older, who have a history of genetic disease in their family, who have previously given birth to a child with a genetic disease, or who have had inconclusive results on previous screening tests.
To determine whether or not you should have an amniocentesis, weigh the information the test will provide you together with what you will do based on that information against any possible risks. Only you can make the decision right for you and your baby.