Pregnancy and the feel of welcoming a baby into the world are exhilarating and wonderful. Along with this comes the fear and questions of, “Will the baby be fine and a normal healthy adult?” and a lot of insecurities in that sense. But the good news is that a simple procedure called “amniocentesis” will help us answer that nagging question.
Well to begin with, ‘Amniocentesis can be defined as a process or procedure in which the maternal amniotic fluid (a water-like fluid that surrounds the fetus in the womb) withdrawn using a thin hollow needle inserted into the mother’s womb’. This helps the doctor to identify or catch any abnormalities in the developing fetus.
As scary as it sounds the fact is, it is a relatively a simple procedure.
- The procedure is done on the 2nd or the 3rd trimester. Preferably around the 15th to 18th weeks of pregnancy. Done according to the needs or the risk anticipated.
- Mostly done along with the usual check-up or the ultrasound scan visits.
- Under the guidance of the ultrasound transducer. The doctor gives a small amount of local anesthetic around the region of insertion of the needle used to withdraw the amniotic fluid.
- Once the anesthesia sets in. A long narrow needle used to draw a small amount of the amniotic fluid from the mother.
- After this, the doctor usually places a small band-aid around the area of needle insertion.
- The mother’s body will make up for the amount of amniotic fluid extracted during the procedure.
- The mother can return home to her regular lifestyle within a day or 2.
- keeping in mind to avoid any form of rigorous activities like exercise, lifting, prolonged standing, etc.
HOW DOES AMNIOCENTESIS WORK?
The amniotic fluid provides us with the genetic material needed for the test. This fluid contains the body cells that the fetus sheds as any normal human would.
These cells with certain other proteins provide us with an array of information about the developing fetus.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM THIS TEST?
Certain genetic conditions and birth defects like,
- Down’s syndrome aka Trisomy 21
- Trisomy 18 aka Edward’s syndrome
- Patau syndrome aka Trisomy 13
- XY or sexual abnormalities.
Apart from the aforementioned chromosomal conditions,
Sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy. Neural tube defects like spina bifida, heart defects, and skeletal abnormalities can be diagnosed with ease.
Under certain special circumstances, amniocentesis is mandatory to
- Assess the lung maturity of the fetus in the case early delivery becomes necessary.
- To diagnose uterine infections
- To check anemia in babies with Rh incompatibility.
- A family history of genetic disorders.
- Women above the age of 35 where the risk of chromosomal abnormalities is high.
With so many attractive benefits, there are also certain downsides to this procedure.
It is important to understand amniocentesis is an optional procedure and is not mandatory for every pregnant woman.
Certain complications that can be expected are,
- The amniotic fluid leak is a very common complication after these procedures.
- And, a very small risk of miscarriage (1 in 900 or 0.11%).
So, it is very important to understand the procedure and discuss with your doctor the need for this test. A doctor can help you to decide if this is a necessary test. It’s modified based on your body condition and family history.
Commonly Asked Questions on Amniocentesis
Why amniocentesis is banned in india?
It’s banned in India as people use the test to determine the sex of the child. As there are more female child abortions the government of India banned the determination of the sex. This law passed in the year 1994.
How long for the results?
To check simple conditions like down’s syndrome it takes just 3 days. To check for more advanced screening it can take up to 3 weeks for the actual results to arrive.
Accuracy of the test
The test measures a tremendous accuracy of about 98% -99%.
When do miscarriages happen after the amniocentesis test?
The usual time taken is 3 days.
In some cases, it can take up to 2 weeks to reach this dreadful state.
Can this test detect Autism?
The autistic child usually emanates high levels of testosterone in the 12 to 20 weeks of pregnancy. Any test done during this period will help to identify autism.