Pregnant woman looking at Ultrasound

Last month, we discussed chromosomal abnormalities and how they’re detected. We’d like to dive a little deeper into one of those detection methods – amniocentesis.

During pregnancy, a sac filled with amniotic fluid forms in your uterus. This sac holds the baby and aids in his/her development and growth, helping to cushion and protect injury and infection, control temperature, and allow movement. Amniotic fluid contains fetal cells that can provide important information about the baby’s health and diagnose various conditions.

The testing of amniotic fluid, called amniocentesis, is typically conducted between 14 and 20 weeks gestation if:

  • The mother is age 35 or older
  • Parents had a child or previous pregnancy with a birth defect
  • Prenatal screening test results are abnormal
  • Family history of a genetic condition

Amniocentesis is sometimes conducted in the third trimester to check for infections if membranes have ruptured, to determine severity of anemia in babies with Rh disease, or to assess lung maturity before delivery.

The procedure itself is fairly safe and simple, removing a sample of the amniotic fluid for testing. The provider will use ultrasound to determine a safe place for a thin needle to enter the amniotic sac. Both mom and baby’s vitals will be monitored during and after the procedure.

The amniotic fluid sample is sent to the lab, where the fetal cells are separated from the fluid for analysis. These tests have a high level of accuracy for determining the probability of chromosomal abnormalities like Down Syndrome, neural tube defects like spina bifida, or genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis.

What are the benefits of performing an amniocentesis? Should the tests show a high probability of a defect, the parents can plan ahead for their special needs child by finding resources and support. Genetic counselors are trained to help you understand about birth defects and genetic conditions, and how they can affect you and/or your baby.

Normal side effects of amniocentesis can include cramping, fluid leakage, and minor irritation at the site of the needle puncture. Call your provider if you notice change in the baby’s movement, bleeding from the vagina, fever, strong cramps that last more than a few hours, or redness/swelling at the insertion point.

Discuss the benefits and risks of amniocentesis with your contact your Capital Women’s Care provider to determine the best solution for you and your baby.

Our Mission

The providers of Capital Women's Care seek the highest quality medical and ethical standard in an environment that nurtures the spirit of caring for every woman.


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