Understanding Amniocentesis: What to Expect During Testing

During pregnancy, there are many are many tests that will be taken to ensure that you are coming along smoothly. One of these tests is called a triple test. This blood test is one that screens for any neural defects, Down Syndrome, and Trisomy 18 in your baby.

This test is usually performed between the 15th and 20th week of pregnancy. However, results from weeks 16-18 are said to be more accurate. This test is offered for all pregnancies, but those with certain risk factors are recommended to have it done.

Neural tube defects are detected by evaluating AFP levels. These defects can include spina bifida and anencephaly. Both of these defects occur during the development of the brain and spinal cord.

Down Syndrome, otherwise known as Trisomy 21, happens because of an extra chromosome 21. Parental activities can cause it before and during pregnancy, as well as certain environmental factors. Down syndrome can manifest with certain physical traits. These traits can present differently, having different degrees of characteristics.

Trisomy 18 is called Edwards Syndrome, and is caused by an extra chromosome 18 just like Down Syndrome. Unlike Down Syndrome, this syndrome is associated with many more medical complications. The first few months and years of life are potentially fatal. A small number of adults, mostly female, are living with it and can live independently without full-time care.


Amniocentesis is a test that might be ordered after a triple test comes back with abnormal results. It is performed by taking some of the amniotic fluid surrounding your baby and evaluating it. A multitude of tests can be conducted using this sample.

Amniotic fluid is a substance that is much like water. It contains elements such as live fetal cells and AFP. They help provide some super important information about how your baby is developing.

This test can also be used to determine the sex of your baby. Any multiple pregnancies can also be detected with this test. This is a pretty important test to have done, especially if you have any of the risk factors.

These factors include abnormal ultrasound, a family history of certain birth defects, or a previous pregnancy that resulted in a child with a defect. There are other reasons to get this test. If you are 35 and over and of course, the results from your triple test can be a deciding factor on whether or not to get this treatment.

Amniocentesis can be a treatment if there is too much amniotic fluid present. Along with defects, it can test for infections. Lung and genetic testing are also something that can be determined with amniocentesis.

How it is Done

The process of retrieving baby’s amniotic fluid can be a little complicated. After an initial ultrasound, your health care provider will clean off the special ultrasound gel and prepare for the procedure.

Using the ultrasound transducer to navigate, your health care provider will insert a thin, hollow needle through your abdomen and into your uterus. It may feel a little uncomfortable, but anesthetic is not usually used for this procedure.

Lying still during the procedure is important. It is already risky enough so allow your health care provider to do it properly. You might feel a sting in your abdomen and then some cramping in your uterus as the needle passes through your body.


There are several risks associated with this procedure. It is possible to leak amniotic fluid through the vagina after amniocentesis. It is usually a small amount and ceases within a week to continue a healthy pregnancy.

Miscarriage risk can increase, especially if done before 15 weeks of gestation. The risk of miscarriage can increase by .6 percent. Preterm labor is also a possible effect of amniocentesis.

Another risk is that your baby can move around during the procedure. They can hurt themselves with the needle. Serious injuries are, however, rare in occurrence.

The transmission of infection is also entirely possible. Developing a uterine infection is probable. It is also possible to transfer a disease you may have, this includes HIV/AIDS, and you can also transfer hepatitis C or toxoplasmosis. None of these are any good for your growing baby.

Most of these risks are incredibly rare. Leaking fluid is probably the most common side effect that can happen. Luckily it goes away quickly and is usually harmless.

After the Test

Relaxing for the rest of the day is highly recommended. Avoid sexual activity and lifting anything more than 20 pounds, including your other kids. Taking Tylenol every four hours will help relieve any discomfort. You can resume your normal activities the next day after your body has been able to recover.

After having amniocentesis, it is critical to look out for possible complications. You should call your doctor if you experience any of the following: fever, vaginal discharge, or abdominal pain worse than regular cramps, as all are signs that something might be going on.

What Your Results Mean

When you get your results, it can be somewhat unnerving. This is especially because it is testing for such critical things. Your results are usually available within two to three weeks.

Your results of genetic testing and neural defects are 98-99 percent accurate. AFP levels and ultrasounds can help determine the degree of any disabilities that may be found.

Even though amniocentesis can reveal many issues, it is definitely not for everyone. Moral or religious reasons are some examples of why parents decide not to have it done. Any potential harm to the baby also turns people off from it. Finally, parents who are comfortable with the results, regardless of what they are, also choose to not have it done.

There is nothing problematic about deciding not to have the test done. It can be risky and sometimes it just does not matter. Parents who want to protect their developing child are the ones who know what is best for them.

Amniocentesis results provide peace of mind or knowledge of things you might have to deal with when your child is born. Ensure that you are having it done for good reasons, and that you are prepared for any results.