Frequently Asked Questions: Amniocentesis

Here are some frequently asked questions related to amniocentesis:

Q: Does amniocentesis hurt?

A: 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.

Q: Why does it take so long to get results back from the lab with genetic amniocentesis?

A: There are only a few stray cells in the amniotic fluid. The cells must grow and divide before enough are available for genetic tests, and cell growth rates vary so result times can differ from patient to patient.

Q: Do normal amniocentesis results guarantee a normal baby?

A: No test can guarantee a healthy baby. The results of amniocentesis are very likely to be accurate. (The accuracy of the chromosome test is estimated to be between 99.4% and 100%.) So a normal result can accurately exclude some problems and should be reassuring. Still, amniocentesis does not test for everything. Most of the approximately 4% of babies who are born with some abnormality do not have a chromosome defect or other disorder that amniocentesis detects.

Q: Can amniocentesis determine the sex of the baby?

A: Yes, amniocentesis is used to observe chromosomal abnormalities and will also show if the baby has an X and a Y chromosome (in which case it’s a boy) or two X chromosomes (in which case it’s a girl).

Q: Should I have CVS or wait and have amniocentesis?

A: It depends. If you know you’re at risk for having a baby with a chromosomal abnormality and you want to know if there’s a problem during the first trimester, you may want to consider CVS. But if you want to have a multiple marker screening (which is a blood test) before deciding to undergo a more invasive procedure, amniocentesis may be a better choice. A session with a genetic counselor can help you make an informed decision.

Q: Aren’t there risks involved in the procedure?

A: Amniocentesis increases the risk of miscarriage by less than 1% over the baseline risk for miscarriage. There is also a slight risk of uterine infection (less than one in 1,000) and bleeding. Generally, the more experience a clinician has in performing amniocentesis, the lower the risk of complications will be.

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