Amniocentesis: What Every Mom Should Know

Amniocentesis isn’t exactly “new” science. The practice dates back over 100 years. Essentially, the procedure guides a long needle through the abdomen and into the amniotic sac that surrounds the growing baby, collecting a sample of the fluid, which contains cells, proteins and even a slight “urine sample” from the baby. It’s quick, painless and an efficient way to receive critical answers to tough questions and concerns when it comes to your baby’s health.

What Does Amniocentesis Diagnose?

When most people think about amniocentesis, one of the first health concerns that come to mind is the chromosomal disorder, Down’s Syndrome. While this is one potential culprit that can be discovered during amniocentesis, it isn’t the only one. Other potential health issues uncovered during amniocentesis include spina bifida, infections, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease and even potential sex chromosome disorders.

Who Needs Amniocentesis?

In most instances, amniocentesis is recommended for moms-to-be over 35 years of age, because this is when chromosomal risks begin to increase. At 35, the probability of having a baby with Down’s Syndrome is 1 out of 178.

By the time you reach 40, it has increased to 1 in 63 and by the time a mother-to-be is 48, the risk is 1 out of 8 – greater than 10%! For mothers under 35, amniocentesis is only recommended if there is some other known risk in the medical history.

Is it Safe?

The mere prospect of amniocentesis can be unsettling for pregnant families. No parent wants to worry about genetic disorders or other diseases before they even meet the new baby.

While there is still some level of controversy surrounding the process, the fact remains that families welcoming a baby with genetic or other serious health concerns generally fare better with more time there is to plan and get informed.

That said, the procedure does have a very limited risk of fetal loss, with a loss rate of less than 1%. Studies seem to show between a 1 in 300 and a 1 in 500 chance the amniocentesis will result in fetal damage or miscarriage.

However, if you feel you are being pressured into an unnecessary procedure, don’t be afraid to discuss your fears and concerns with your doctor. If they aren’t willing to take the time to listen, you are absolutely entitled to seek a second opinion.

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