Amniocentesis is a procedure in which amniotic fluid is removed from the uterus for testing. The following HerHaleness article will help you understand the risks and benefits associated with this procedure.
Most gynecologists recommend an amniocentesis test after an abnormal triple test result. This test helps them identify any genetic or inherited abnormal traits in the fetus that could lead to genetic disorders. If you are confused and can’t decide whether or not you need to take this test, it would be best to understand the risks and benefits associated with this test.
When you go in for this procedure, the doctor will use an ultrasound machine to determine a safe location in the amniotic sac. After that, a needle is inserted into the amniotic sac for collecting the amniotic fluid. This procedure takes about 45 minutes and the collection of the amniotic fluid takes about 5 minutes. The collected fluid is sent to the laboratory for further testing. The fluid contains cells that are shed from the fetus. These cells are used for further analysis. The results may take a few days to few weeks.
When is the Procedure Performed
This procedure is usually performed between 14th to 20th week, and sometimes as early as the 11th week of pregnancy. In some cases, this procedure might be performed in the third trimester. This procedure is also carried out to diagnose uterine infections in case of ruptured membranes. It also helps diagnose fetal anemia in babies with Rh disease. In such cases, it also helps the doctor to decide whether the fetus requires blood transfusions.
The Risks and Benefits
Although considered to be a safe procedure which is almost 99% accurate, amniocentesis is an invasive diagnostic test, and some risks might be involved. These include:
- Miscarriage: The rate of risk of miscarriage is less than 1%. However, the risk is higher if the procedure is carried out before the 14th week of pregnancy.
- Cramps and Vaginal Bleeding: Some women may complain of cramping and vaginal bleeding after the procedure.
- Fetal Injury: In extremely rare cases, the needle comes in contact with the baby. This may happen in case the baby moves an arm or leg and comes in contact with the needle. It is very rare to observe serious needle injuries in fetus while performing the procedure.
- Rh Sensitization: Again in rare cases, the fetal blood cells enter the mother’s bloodstream, thereby triggering an immune response. This happens when the mother is Rh negative and the fetus has Rh positive blood group. In such cases, the doctor may give the mother Rh immunoglobulin drugs to prevent the production of antibodies against the fetal blood cells.
- Uterine Infections: Sometimes, the procedure may trigger a uterine infection that may lead to miscarriage. If the mother has hepatitis B or hepatitis C, it may increase the risk of transmission to baby in the first or second trimester.
- Other side effects include leakage of fluid and minor irritation at the puncture site.
Though this procedure does pose certain health risks, it also helps detect chromosomal abnormalities. It also helps in detecting neural tube defects and genetic disorders. The test helps the doctors determine the probability of birth defects, and not the severity of the abnormalities. It helps detect Trisomy 21 or Down syndrome, the most common chromosomal abnormality. It also helps in the detection of cystic fibrosis. It can also be used to determine if the lungs are mature enough.
If you have been asked to undergo amniocentesis, make sure that the test is conducted by a qualified and experienced medical professional. Make sure that you ask your doctors about all the risks involved.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.