Amniocentesis Test Procedure and the Associated Risks and Benefits

Amniocentesis is a prenatal diagnostic test that is performed anytime between 15th to 20th week during pregnancy to diagnose any abnormality, inherited genetic disorders or any other type of serious health issues present in the fetus. Though the test is an invasive procedure, it poses no harm to the fetus as the sample needed for the test is collected from the amniotic fluid which contains cells from fetal body and AFP which can help in diagnosing certain abnormalities or disorders before birth.

The procedure involves the insertion of a fine through the abdominal wall into the amniotic sac with the help of ultrasound imaging. Once the needle is in contact with the amniotic fluid, the required amount of fluid is withdrawn through the syringe. Often the test is recommended to women who are at higher risk of giving birth to children with disorders or abnormalities due to their inherited genetic condition or any other health issues.


When is Amniocentesis important

Often doctors recommend amniocentesis test when the results of the triple screen test of the maternal blood which looks for AFP, HCG and Estriol does not come out normal. With the diagnosis of the any condition earlier in the pregnancy, the parents can either find a solution to the problem or make their decision on whether to continue or not with the pregnancy. Amniocentesis test is important in certain conditions like

  • The couples who have family history of birth defects such as Down’s syndrome, cystic fibrosis, Sickle cell disease, Muscular dystrophy, Tay-Sachs and similar diseases or spina bifida
  • Women who have consumed medicines, drugs or food that poses harm to fetus
  • Women with pregnancy at later stage of life
  • Previous pregnancy with baby having genetic defects
  • Women with chronic health issues
  • Infections or illness during pregnancy
  • Exposure to high levels of radiation to the fetus
  • Women who had neural tube defect or chromosomal condition during previous pregnancy
  • To test lung maturity in case of early delivery which is performed to prevent complications
  • Evaluate anemia with babies having RH sensitization, illness or infections
  • Decreasing high amount of amniotic fluid in the sac

If the test rules out any abnormality in the pregnancy, the parents can heave a sigh of relief and enjoy the days of pregnancy without stress or worry. In case there is some abnormality detected, then the parents can opt for genetic counseling and guidance regarding what steps should be taken. The advanced information about the condition of their baby gives the parents ample time to prepare themselves in special care taking of their child. Some problems detected through the test can be treated in the utero before birth.

Associated risks

Though amniocentesis is an invasive diagnostic test, it is considered safe procedure though certain complications and risks cannot be ruled out.

One of the major risks involved with amniocentesis is that of miscarriage though it is as low as 0.5%, especially if the test is conducted earlier in the pregnancy. Amniocentesis can cause infection in the womb, induce premature labor or break the water sac which may lead to miscarriage. If the leakage of amniotic fluid is heavy, it may lead to serious orthopedic problems in the baby.

Though the medical professionals are assisted through the ultra sound, unfortunately the needle may come in contact with the fetus leading to injury.

Though the procedure is not very painful the pregnant woman may experience some discomfort and pain as the needle pierces the abdomen and the uterine wall. Some women report cramps and pains following the procedure.

Rh sensitization, infections or transmission of infection are other low risks of amniocentesis procedure.