Amniocentesis is a diagnostic prenatal test that provides information about your baby's health from a sample of your amniotic fluid. The test examines the fluid and determines if specific genetic disorders may be present in your baby. The test is often recommended for women who are at a higher risk for genetic disease, including those who have a family history of birth defects or are over the age of 35. An amniocentesis may also be performed after receiving abnormal results from a screening exam.
The amniotic fluid detects certain birth defects, such as:
- Down syndrome
- Cystic fibrosis
- Sickle cell disease
- Spina bifida
- Tay-Sachs disease
The Amniocentesis Procedure
The amniocentesis test involves extracting a small sample of the amniotic fluid. Using ultrasound guidance, a fine needle is inserted into the amniotic sac in the uterus. The procedure takes just a few minutes to perform, and most women report that it is painless, although others may experience cramping or pressure within the uterus.
After the procedure, patients should relax for the remainder of the day. If the patient is uncomfortable, she may ask the doctor for medication to relieve discomfort. Patients usually resume their normal activities the following day, unless otherwise directed by their doctor.
This test is usually performed between the 15th and 20th weeks of pregnancy. Early testing is no longer recommended as it was found to cause a higher risk of miscarriage and other complications.