Amniocentesis – An Overview

Amniocentesis is a of prenatal test which is used to determine the presence of any chromosomal or genetic abnormalities in the unborn baby. This process is also known as amniotic fluid testing (AFT ).

Not every pregnant woman need to undergo the procedure of amniocentesis. Amniocentesis is performed only if there is a family history of genetic defects, if the age of the expectant mother is above 35 and if the ultrasound taken revealed abnormal results. Women who were previously pregnant with a child having genetic abnormalities are also recommended to undergo the process.

The testing is usually done in between the 15th and 20th week of pregnancy.Your abdomen will be cleaned by using iodine or alcohol solution before the process so as to provide a sterile environment. The test is performed by puncturing the amniotic sac with a long needle. The needle is guided to the amniotic sac with the help of ultrasound imaging.

After puncturing the amniotic sac, the amniotic fluid is retrieved from it by using a syringe. Usually the physician performing the procedure will retrieve around 20 ml of the fluid. The amniotic fluid contains cells which gives genetic information about the fetus.

The fluid is then further tested for abnormalities like neural tube defects like spina bifida and chromosomal abnormalities like Downs Syndrome and Trisomy. It also helps the physician in assessing the lung maturity of the fetus. The amniotic fluid can also be tested for genetic disorders like sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis which may be present in the baby.

The chances of the mother having an uterine infection can also be found out by this process. The procedure of amniocentesis will not cause any harm to the baby and the risk of fetal loss is very much less than 1 percent. The drawback of this process is that it fails to reveal the presence of any structural defects like heart malformations.

You will need to take complete rest after 2 to 3 days of the testing procedure. During this period, do not indulge in sexual intercourse and also abstain from lifting heavy objects.

The process of amniocentesis is a painless one. But in certain cases women may experience mild uterine cramping during the process, which will disappear very soon. But if you experience heavy bleeding, cramping and fever, then immediately consult your physician for help as it can be a sign of fetal distress.



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