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What Is Amniocentesis?

Friday, November 8, 2013 - 13:18
Contributors to this article: 

William N. Spellacy MD
Guy Slowik FRCS

Amniocentesis is a procedure performed during pregnancy in which amniotic fluid is withdrawn from a woman's uterus to test for certain problems in the fetus, such as genetic defects, fetal infections, fetal lung immaturity, or Rh sensitization. The word "amniocentesis" literally means "puncture of the amnion," the fluid-filled sac that encloses the fetus during pregnancy.

During amniocentesis, a needle is inserted through a mother's belly into the sac of amniotic fluid, the watery fluid that surrounds the fetus, and a small amount of the fluid is removed.

The fluid, which is produced by the fetal lungs and kidneys and the umbilical cord, contains skin cells the fetus has shed and biochemical substances that the fetus has produced. These cells can be sent to a laboratory, where they are isolated and grown so that their genetic material (chromosomes) can be tested, or so other laboratory tests can be done.

Nice To Know:

Does amniocentesis hurt?

Most women will feel slight pain during amniocentesis. For the first day or so afterward, some women may feel cramps like those during their menstrual period, but that is the most discomfort a woman undergoing the procedure is likely to experience. Bleeding, fever, or leaking of amniotic fluid after amniocentesis may occur and should signal a call to your doctor.

Facts About Amniocentesis

  • Amniocentesis was first performed in 1966 to diagnose genetic disorders.
  • Approximately 1 to 3 tablespoons of fluid are removed from the womb during amniocentesis.
  • Over 99% of all chromosomal abnormalities can be detected by amniocentesis.
  • More than 95% of the time, amniocentesis shows that a fetus carries none of the disorders for which the test is done.

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