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Amniocentesis

Learn what this prenatal test is--and who should have it done.

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-There was some concern, which is why we originally opted not to do it. Plus, I am of advanced maternal age as they say. I'm 39. I'm Donnabella Vicencio and this is my daughter Ava, and she's 5 weeks old. Originally, we decided-- my husband and I decided not to have an amnio and there were some things that came up on the ultrasound so we decided to have the amnio. -During that ultrasound, there were some findings on the ultrasound that we were suspicious for a couple of things. I'm Dr. Allan Fisher. I'm the director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Morristown Memorial Hospital here in New Jersey. Once they have that information, we-- they decided to have the amniocentesis and we had an answer actually back in a very short period of time. -She actually did have a variation of normal chromosomes, so we didn't meet with the genetic counselor. -Our genetic counselor as well as myself spent time with Donna and her husband talking about what that all meant and I-- and then as the pregnancy continued, we spent more time with them every time we saw them. -And Dr. Fisher did a lot of followup ultrasounds that she's doing great. -Amniocentesis actually means that you withdraw some of the fluid where the baby is swimming and using a needle and doing that. The needle itself is the same size as if we draw your blood. That's how thin it is. It's just longer because we need to get where we need to go and then we sent it to the lab and they grow cells from that amniotic fluid and they look at the chromosomes from there. The main things that we look for in the amniocentesis is looking at the chromosome number itself. We could also look for whether there's large pieces of the chromosomes that are moved, or deleted, or duplicated, or whether there's extra chromosomal material. We don't look at really small pieces that are deleted or duplicated and we don't look at the genes themselves. Now, if we have a suspicion that something is going on or we have a family history of that and we can test for it, we can do those tests as well. If you look at all children born in the United States and you say, "Okay, what's the percentage of them having some type of chromosomal or genetic problem?" It's about 3% of all newborns. At the time they're 5 to 7 years of age, that works up to about 7%. So, the systems itself, the genetic system itself, is about 93% efficient. -I barely even remember it. It was very quick. I don't really remember what they did and it didn't hurt very much at all like most people think it did. It was quick. -The procedure itself actually doesn't take very long. It takes about 10 minutes or so to setup for everything. And once in the sac, it takes about less than 30 seconds. So, when Donna says that it didn't really hurt very much, it generally doesn't. I tell people that they-- when they go into the skin, it's just like drawing blood. When the go through the uterus, it feels like menstrual cramps or flu shot in the arm. In general, the amniocentesis are approximately performed 16 weeks if they somebody knows that they wanna have it as an elective, but it can be done up to 22 weeks or even sometimes later than that as well. Typically, the way really [unk] normally 20 years ago was 3 to 4 weeks. Now, it's less than 2 weeks and like you can if we're looking for something very specific, get particular chromosomes and get that answer in 24 to 48 hours. Often times, we have to give bad news. And that is part of our training. I usually take a very straight administrative approach to talking to the patient. And when we do that where we are-- we have very specific information that we give the patients and we just don't let them walk out the door and so it's a continued relationship. So, just like for Donna, it was-- we saw that-- we saw Ava many times by ultrasound, following her, answering every question that she had as well as we could through every time that we saw the baby. -With my experience, I would do it if I was to get pregnant again. I would do the amnio even though originally I thought I wouldn't just to know if there's anything that might be wrong with the baby. I think it pays to know in advance so you can do research and be prepared for a child that might have something different.