Series: Amniocentesis | University of Maryland Medical Center

Series: Amniocentesis | University of Maryland Medical Center

When a woman is about 15 weeks pregnant, her doctor may suggest that an amniocentesis be performed.

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, Which is a test that detects or discards the presence of certain hereditary disorders in the fetus. It also determines the maturity of the lungs to know if the fetus can withstand parturition. In addition, you can find out the sex of the baby.

Physicians usually suggest amniocentesis to women who are at increased risk of having a baby with certain specific disorders, such as:

  • Those who are 35 or older for the time of birth.
  • Those who have a close family member with a disorder.
  • Those who have tests whose results indicate the presence of an anomaly, such as a high or low alpha-fetoprotein count. May suggest amniocentesis to women with pregnancy complications that require a childbirth advance, such as Rh incompatibility.

    Procedure (first part)

    Amniocentesis Do in the exam room, with or without local anesthesia. It usually takes only a few minutes, during which the woman should remain very still. The technician places the fetus with the ultrasound. Guided by ultrasound, the doctor carefully inserts into the amniotic sac, through the abdomen, a long but thin hollow needle. When the woman is Rh negative and is not sensitized, she should receive Rh immune globulin at the time of amniocentesis.

    Procedure (second part)

    Doctors recommend that after amniocentesis, the woman should rest and avoid physical exertion (such as lifting objects). If complications such as abdominal cramping, fluid spillage, vaginal bleeding or signs of infection are experienced after the procedure, the doctor should be called immediately.

    After an amniocentesis, there is between 0.25% And a 0.50% risk of spontaneous abortion, in addition to a very slight risk of uterine infection (less than 0.001%). In trained hands and under the guidance of ultrasound, this rate of miscarriage may be even lower.

    In most cases, test results will be available in two weeks. The doctor will explain the results to the person and, if a problem is diagnosed, will make recommendations regarding the interruption of the pregnancy or how to take care of the baby after it is born.

    Amniocentesis detects or discards Down syndrome, which causes intellectual disability, congenital heart defects, and physical characteristics such as skin folds near the eyes. It also detects defects of the neural tube, such as spina bifida. Babies born with spina bifida have a spine that was not properly closed. Some of the serious complications of spina bifida are leg paralysis, bladder and kidney defects, brain swelling (hydrocephalus), and intellectual disability.

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