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What Can Amniocentesis Tell You About Your Unborn Baby?

By Shabana

If you just achieved a positive on your pregnancy test, chances are it stands true 99% of the time. A visit to a gynaecologist will then give way to a series of various tests and scans, just to make sure that the mother and the baby are in the pink of health.

Among the list of tests and scans, the ultrasound scan is often something that doctors rely on to find out how far along is the pregnancy and to determine the due date. However, the first scan is done usually around 16-18 weeks into the pregnancy, where the foetus is clearly visible.

Apart from the scan, it is important for a pregnant woman to undergo tests to determine blood sugar levels and haemoglobin count in the body. Also, very important is the thyroid test. Regularly monitoring the mother's blood pressure is also vital for the proper growth and development of the baby. The doctor then prescribes iron tablets and prenatal vitamins accordingly.

Usually these are the only tests required during the first semester of the pregnancy. But when the doctor finds some abnormalities in the foetus during the ultrasound scan, then an additional prenatal test called amniocentesis is carried out.

  • What is Amniocentesis?
  • Why Is Amniocentesis Important?
  • Procedure Of Amniocentesis
  • What Can You Infer From Amniocentesis Results?

What is Amniocentesis?

Modern day ultrasound scans are quite clear and accurate, often giving us complete details regarding the foetus. Therefore, if the scan results detect something abnormal, the doctor investigates further by conducting a test called amniocentesis - a test to sample the amniotic fluid which surrounds the foetus.

The amniotic fluid is the richest source of foetal DNA and is also rich in live foetal cells and alpha-fetoprotein, which can be used to determine the health of the foetus. Also called AFT or the amniotic fluid test, it is used to determine chromosomal abnormalities and foetal infections.

Why Is Amniocentesis Important?

Amniocentesis is not a regular test which is prescribed to every pregnant woman. It will only be conducted if the doctors detect an abnormality in the ultrasound scan results of the foetus or if the family has a history of foetal defects.

The procedure has caught the fancy of many for its ability to easily detect a common chromosomal abnormality such as Down syndrome and others such as sickle cell disease, muscular dystrophy or even the neutral tube defects like the abnormal development of the backbone or the spinal cord.

Amniocentesis is important if you have previously given birth to a child with birth defects. It also helps detect a foetal infection which would need to be addressed immediately. Another very important reason to conduct the procedure can be in order to decrease the amount to amniotic fluid in the womb, which can also cause certain complications in the mother and the baby. In the western countries, this procedure is widely used to determine the sex of the baby due to its high level of accuracy.

Conducting the amniocentesis of the foetus involves in the complete study of its DNA to determine the physical or mental condition that is affecting the foetus. It will help the parents prepare for any complications that many arise during the birth of the baby, or for the matter of fact, in their lifetime, as most of these conditions affect the quality of life of the unborn child.

Procedure Of Amniocentesis

If your doctor has recommended an amniocentesis for you, it will usually be conducted between 16 and 18 weeks of your pregnancy. It involves extracting a certain amount of amniotic fluid by inserting a fine needle into the uterus. This is done aided by the ultrasound so that the procedure done not affect the foetus in any way.

Here is the detailed step-by-step procedure of amniocentesis in detail.

1) The ultrasound scan first detects the exact position of the foetus inside a womb to determine the place of inserting the needle, which needs to be away from the foetus.

2) Once the exact position is determined, the area of the abdomen is cleaned with an antiseptic.

3) Usually, the mother does not need any anaesthesia, but this decision is totally at the discretion of the doctor or the mother.

4) The doctor then inserts a thin needle in the place to extract a certain amount of the amniotic fluid. All this is done under the ultrasound to reduce the risk of complications to the foetus.

5) The fluid collected is then sent to the lab for examination.

6) There are no side effects of this procedure. However, the mother needs to stay away from strenuous activity post the procedure.

What Can You Infer From Amniocentesis Results?

You can expect the results of your amniocentesis procedure within 2- 3 weeks of the procedure. Just like all other results, the test may be normal or abnormal.

A normal test result indicates that your baby does not carry any genital abnormality and is undergoing positive growth and development. However, if the test is abnormal, it indicates that the foetus is most likely carrying a genetic abnormality or a chromosomal disorder. The exact nature and cause of the problem can be determined by the doctor decoding the results of the tests for you in detail.

The result of amniocentesis is usually 99% accurate and can be completely relied on. It may be tough to cope up with the news of your unborn baby being abnormal. Speaking to the doctor and knowing the options that are available to you under such circumstances will help you cope with the tough times.

Read more about: pregnancy foetus
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