Risks of Amniocentesis to Mother and Baby

Your OB/GYN may recommend that you have an amniocentesis for a variety of reasons, including inherited or genetic concerns. If you are an older mother whom your doctor considers at risk of having a child with Down's syndrome or other congenital diseases, then he may recommend you undergo an amniocentesis. The test may also be given in order to be able to implement a potential intervention such as fetal surgery for a baby with spina bifida. Many parents-to-be are not interested in terminating the pregnancy should the news not be positive, but do want the opportunity to begin planning for a child with special needs and anticipating the lifestyle changes that may be required. Those couples who will carry to term regardless of the test results because of moral or religious reasons may feel there is no reason to have an amniocentesis done.

When-and How is an Amniocentesis Performed?

The amniocentesis will typically be performed by your physician between 14 and 20 weeks of pregnancy, although in the higher-tech facilities it can possibly be done as early as 11 weeks. Amniocentesis may also be ordered late in the third trimester, usually if the woman's membranes have prematurely ruptured. In this application, the procedure is used to determine whether a uterine infection is pregnant.

Late amniocentesis can also be used in determining whether your baby may need a blood transfusion in the case of severe fetal anemia with Rh disease. If there is a question regarding lung maturity, then an amniocentesis may also be ordered, and will be done shortly before delivery of the baby. The doctor uses an ultrasound during the amniocentesis test in order to ensure he is entering the needle in a safe place. Amniotic fluid will be removed from the amniotic sac-a procedure which will generally take around 45 minutes to an hour. This fluid will be sent to the lab for analysis, with results taking anywhere from several days to two or three weeks.

Risks of Amniocentesis in Mother and Baby

Amniocentesis is generally considered to be a "safe" diagnostic test, however it does come with certain risks. Over 200,000 women a year undergo the test, with that number rising due to the increasing age of pregnant moms. The primary risk of amniocentesis lies in the possibility of a miscarriage, which is roughly from one in 100-300, depending on which statistics you believe.

If miscarriage is a particular worry for you, discuss it thoroughly with your doctor prior to having the amniocentesis done. The needle which is inserted into the amniotic sac can cause the water to break, labor to be prematurely induced, or can introduce an infection into the uterus. Following the amniocentesis, the mother may have mild to severe cramping, or fluid leakage, and in some cases nausea and vomiting. Mom may also experience a headache, muscle aches, chills, or an overall general feeling of being ill.

There is a certain risk to the baby as well, especially the very active ones, therefore great care is taken, and the ultrasound is carefully monitored while the test in being done. In some cases, the baby moves so often that the needle must be withdrawn and reinserted. Should a woman have uterine fibroids, a tipped uterus, maternal obesity, or low amniotic fluid levels, the test does carry an increased risk to mom and baby. Most doctors agree that if the amniocentesis is going to trigger a miscarriage, it will occur within three weeks, although some research indicates it can happen as long as six to eight weeks following the procedure. Having an amniocentesis is a very personal decision which should be carefully considered prior to scheduling.

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