Beauty Fitness and Dermatology

Amniocentesis Procedure - Picture, Side effects and Benefits of Amniocentesis test

Amniocentesis, a sample of amniotic fluid withdrawn from the uterus and tested to check the condition of an unborn baby. Amniotic fluid bathes the baby and it contains the foetal cells. The test is normally done in the 14th week of pregnance. A hollow needle is inserted into the amniotic sack through the abdomen, which has been numbed with a local anaesthetic. The needle is guided by the use of an ultrasound scan so it does not contact the foetus or the placenta.

Amniocentesis is not dangerous for the mother, but there is a 0.5 % risk that the test will trigger miscarriage. The chromosomes in the cells cultured can be tested for over 75 different genetic disorders. The test is offered to most pregnant women aged over 35 because of the increased risk of having a baby with Down's syndrome. If one or both of the parents has a chromosomal abnormality or if a child with a chromosome defect has been born previously, the test may be recommended.

Amniocentesis can determine the sex of the foetus, its age (by measuring the maturity of the lungs), the amount of oxygen received and the chemical composition of the amniotic fluid. This can reveal metabolic disorders caused by absent or defective enzymes. The test can determine if there are structural defects of the spine, e.g. spina bifida or anencephaly (absence of the cerebrum [brain]), and can detect the bilirubin content of the amniotic fluid. This indicates if a rhesus positive baby needs a blood transfusion while inside the uterus. High acidity of the fluid may indicate fetal distress caused by a lack of oxygen. The test is very beneficial for women who carry a gene for sex-linked genetic disorders such as muscular dystrophy and hemophilia, as there is a 50 per cent chance of a male child being affected. The results can help decide if abortion should be considered.

Amniocentesis is also carried out later in pregnancy if the baby is to be delivered early, in order to determine lung maturity. Steroids may be given to the mother as they strengthen the lungs of the foetus, increasing its chances of survival. Careful consideration is needed before an amniocentesis test is carried out. Results are usually highly accurate and may bring relief or severe stress, depending on the outcome. Parents require informed and sympathetic counseling, especially if a termination is considered advisable.

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