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Amniocentesis is a test to look at the fluid that surrounds your
baby (fetus) in the uterus. Amniotic fluid has cells and other
substances that can give clues about the health of your fetus.
For this test, a needle is put gently through your belly into your
2 Tbsp (30 mL) of fluid is taken out and looked at.
This test may be done
between weeks 15 and 20 to look at the baby's genes. It can also be used later in pregnancy to see how the baby is
Amniocentesis is often done around
week 16 to see if a fetus has certain types of birth defects.
It can also tell the sex of a fetus.
has cells that have been shed by your growing fetus. The cells are checked
for the number and size of
chromosomes. This can show if there are any
problems that put the baby at risk for certain conditions, such as Down syndrome. But this test can't find many common birth
defects. These include
cleft palate, heart problems, and some types of intellectual disability.
Testing is most
often done as soon as possible so women and their families have time
to think about their options.
If you are at risk
of having your baby early, amniocentesis may be done during the third trimester
to see if your baby's lungs are fully formed. Your growing baby makes
substances that can be found in amniotic fluid and measured. The amounts of
these substances show how mature the lungs are. They let you know if your baby will be able to
breathe without help if born early.
This test may also be
done later in pregnancy if your doctor thinks you may have an infection of the amniotic fluid
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may be done during your second trimester
to find certain birth defects.
You may choose to have this test because:
Amniocentesis can tell the sex of your baby. This is
important when you or the father may pass on a disease that occurs
mainly in one sex (sex-linked). Examples include
Duchenne muscular dystrophy. These both occur
mainly in males.
Amniocentesis may be done during your third
You may be asked to empty your bladder
just before the test.
You will be asked to sign a consent form that
says you understand the risks of the test and agree to have it done.
Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about the need for the test,
its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you
understand the importance of this test, fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
Amniocentesis is done by your
obstetrician in the doctor's office or in the hospital.
You probably won't need to stay overnight in the hospital unless problems occur
during the test.
lie on your back on an exam table. Your
lower belly will be cleaned with a special soap.
will use a fetal ultrasound to check the position of your fetus and the
placenta. Ultrasound uses
sound waves to make a picture of the uterus, your fetus, and the placenta on a
TV screen. Your fetus's heart rate can also be watched during the test using
ultrasound. For more information, see the topic
ultrasound picture as a guide, your doctor will gently put
a thin needle through your belly and into your uterus. This will not hurt your
fetus or the placenta. If your fetus moves too close to the needle, the doctor will take the needle out and try again in another spot.
The doctor will take about 2 Tbsp (30 mL) of
amniotic fluid. Then the
needle is removed. The site is covered with a bandage.
The whole test takes
about 15 minutes. The thin needle is only in your belly for 1 to 2 minutes.
Your fetus's heart rate and your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing will be
checked before, during, and after the test.
You will feel a sharp sting or burn in
your belly where the needle is put in. This lasts for only a few seconds.
When the needle is put into your uterus, you will feel a sharp cramp for
a few seconds.
When the amniotic fluid is taken out, you may get a
feeling of pulling or pressure in your belly. To keep yourself comfortable,
breathe slowly and relax your belly muscles during the test.
Amniocentesis is mostly very safe. There is a
small chance (about 1 out of 400) that this test may cause a miscarriage.footnote 1 In some studies, the risk was a little higher, about 2 to 4 out of 400.footnote 2
There is also a risk of too much bleeding
(hemorrhage), infection of the amniotic fluid, or leakage of
the fluid. In very rare cases, a fetus may be poked by the needle during
the test. Your doctor does all he or she can to put the needle in a safe spot.
Most fetuses move away from the needle tip.
Amniocentesis has a
very small risk of causing bleeding that could mix your blood and
your fetus's blood. So if you have Rh-negative blood, you will be given the
Rh immunoglobulin vaccine (such as RhoGAM). This can prevent Rh sensitization, which
could harm your fetus if he or she has Rh-positive blood.
After the test, you may have some
mild cramping. Do not do any strenuous activity for several hours after
the test. Also, do not douche, use tampons, or have sex after the test. By the
next day, you can do your normal activities, unless your doctor tells you not
Call your doctor right away if:
Amniocentesis is a test to look at the
amniotic fluid that surrounds your
baby (fetus) in the uterus.
Normal amniotic fluid is
clear to light yellow in color and does not contain any harmful bacteria. The
cells can be tested for problems.
You may not be able to have the test, or the results may not be helpful, if:
Caughey AB, et al. (2006). Chorionic villus sampling compared with amniocentesis and the difference in the rate of pregnancy loss. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 108(3): 612–616.
Seeds JW (2004). Diagnostic mid trimester amniocentesis: How safe? American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 191: 608–616.
Other Works Consulted
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2007, reaffirmed 2009). Invasive prenatal testing for aneuploidy. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 88. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 110(6): 1459–1467.
Wapner RJ, et al. (2009). Prenatal diagnosis of congenital disorders. In RK Creasy et al., eds., Creasy and Resnik's Maternal-Fetal Medicine: Principles and Practice, 6th ed., pp. 221–274. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerSiobhan M. Dolan, MD, MPH - Reproductive Genetics
Current as ofAugust 11, 2015
Current as of:
August 11, 2015
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Siobhan M. Dolan, MD, MPH - Reproductive Genetics
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
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