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What is amniocentesis?

I'm 35 and my doctor suggested I have an amniocentesis. What are the risks I should know about?
Submitted by Parents.com Team

Amniocentesis is a diagnostic test that checks for genetic birth defects like Down syndrome and trisomy 18. Usually done between 16 and 18 weeks, the procedure involves inserting a needle through your belly to remove some amniotic fluid (which has the same genetic makeup as your baby) to be tested in a lab. Amnios are usually offered to women 35 or older (because your chances of genetic problems increase with age) and to women who've had a previous pregnancy where there was a genetic defect, who have a family history of certain conditions, or who have already had an abnormal test result from a CVS (chorionic villus sampling), nuchal translucency ultrasound, or multiple marker screening.

The biggest risk associated with having an amnio is miscarriage, but with recent advances in testing procedures, this is much lower than experts used to believe -- as little as one in 500. Many doctors feel that, for some couples, the benefits of having vital, conclusive information about their baby's health outweighs this risk. Most often amnio results provide precious peace of mind, but in the rare situation that there's a problem, they can also give the parents of a baby with special needs time to plan and become educated about caring for their child emotionally and financially.

Deciding whether or not to have the test raises some difficult questions. For example, if you discovered that your baby had Down syndrome, would you choose to not continue with the pregnancy? It can be difficult to wrap your head around these tough decisions, and if you're unsure, seeing a genetic counselor with your partner can help you weigh the pros and cons and decide what's best for your family. If you're concerned about the invasiveness of the test, talk to your doctor about what other tests, like a nuchal ultrasound or multiple marker screening, have revealed. That may give you enough information to decide whether further testing may be needed.

Copyright 2009

The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.

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Don't do it. I'm surprised your doctor is pushing for it at all. It's not worth the risk. Besides like one other said the blood test will let you know any major problems. Even if they did find anything what would you do besides worry the entire pregnancy?
Submitted by dawndenise2
you can also see if your baby has down syndrom by testing your blood they did that to me when i was 17 weeks pregnant.They told me my baby boy was doing good and he was healthy
Submitted by delgadok571
I had a amniocentesis with my first born and the reason for that was to check if his lungs were mature enough for birth, it was a very uncomfortable and painful procedure, and not something that one should just do unless necessary.
Submitted by quintinacarlson
Amnio is dangerous and useless. The needle can hit and harm your baby, cause a fluid leak or lead to miscarriage. Bear in mind that the results are only 80% accurate, so even if they tell you your baby has something, or nothing, they will be wrong. The test is even inaccurate for predicting sex. Not to mention, if they think your baby has a problem, they will pressure you to abort the baby. My mother had four children after the age of 35, the last one at 42, all perfectly healthy. Don't do it.
Submitted by
I will be 35 when I deliver so my doctor had me see a Perinatologist, who specializes in high risk birth. He came in after my ultrasound and look at everything. He mentioned the test but my normal ob/gyn never said anything about it. For us, it came down to this question, "Would the results of the tests change anything?" The answer was No. Even if our child does have down syndrome, we would never abort the pregnancy. So there was no reason to get the test.
Submitted by dianahawes
i had one as well and i will tell you its simple. the internet had me scared to death and the whole procedure is quick and vertually painless. really dont sweat it.
Submitted by arp322