Amniocentesis is a procedure in which amniotic fluid is taken out of the uterus for testing or treatment. Amniotic fluid surrounds and protects a growing baby during pregnancy, and this fluid contains fetal cells and various chemicals produced by the baby. Doctors are able to gain an incredible amount of information from this fluid to determine the health and progress of growth of a developing baby.
Not all pregnancies will require amniocentesis. In fact, only those that are deemed high-risk may be in need of amniocentesis. Various reasons for this procedure include: genetic disorders such as Down syndrome or spina bifida, checking the lung development of babies that are expected to be born prematurely, worry of infections that have passed into the baby’s system, and rarely to decrease the amount of amniotic fluid in the uterus.
Much care is taken during an amniocentesis procedure. The doctor will use an ultrasound to determine the exact positioning of the baby within the uterus. As a patient lies on her back, the doctor will insert a thin, hollow needle through the abdominal wall and into the uterus. This will be done with ultrasound guidance in order to minimize any risks associated with the procedure. A small amount of amniotic fluid will be withdrawn into the syringe and will be sent to a lab for testing and diagnosis.
Amniocentesis can provide doctors and parents with valuable information about a baby’s health and development, but it is considered to be an invasive diagnostic procedure that comes with associated risks. Doctors do not simply recommend this procedure unless they truly believe that the outcome of obtaining important information outweighs the risk involved. No expectant parents want to hear that there could be something “wrong” with their growing baby. A caring and competent OBGYN can help support patients who need to have an amniocentesis done.
Posted on behalf of Sean Lambert M.D., North Pointe OB/GYN Associates