Importance of the Amniocentesis Procedure

The Amniocentesis Procedure is the diagnostic procedure that is carried to help in detecting defects during the early stages of a pregnancy, just like the fetoscopy procedure for which a fetoscope is used. This is usually used in the early stages of the second trimester. The Amniocentesis Procedure basically works by taking an amniotic fluid sample by using a needle and syringe. The syringe is inserted through the mother's stomach into her womb to collect the sample. Genetic abnormities of several types can be detected by conducting various tests on fetal cells that are contained in the amniotic fluid. Early detection of anything that might be wrong with your baby goes a long way to help in making important judgments about your baby's future wellbeing.

The fetus produces amniotic fluid is normally clear and pale yellow. It acts as a shock absorber and barrier to protect the fetus and as a temperature regulatory mechanism for the fetus. It contains proteins, enzymes, hormones as well as the fetus' cells that are shed by it. The amniotic fluid is therefore a rich source of genetic and biological data that can be used to carry out a variety of lab tests.

It has been used since around 1970 for testing cases when Down syndrome was suspected. Down syndrome is a birth defect that is genetic. Other genetic and hereditary disorders that can be detected using an amniocentesis procedure are cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, hemophilia, sickle cell diseases and Tay-Sachs diseases.

In case a mother will be over 35 years of age on her due date of delivery, it is highly recommended that goes for this procedure. Since this procedure is mostly used to test for genetic and hereditary diseases, if any of the parents come from a family with a history of such disorders, it is a highly recommended procedure. Pregnancy at an older age normally increases the chances of the baby having a hereditary abnormality or disorder. It also proportionally increases the risk of having a miscarriage associated with this procedure. This is one of the main reasons why it is generally not advisable for women to bear children at an older or later stage in life. The risks as time progresses are normally accordingly escalated the older women get hence the progressive ratios.

Why is the Amniocentesis Procedure used?

The abnormal alpha-fetoprotein test (AFP) is a major reason as to why an amniocentesis procedure may be carried out. An alpha-fetoprotein is a protein that is produced by a fetus and it also normally found in the pregnant mothers blood. It is a blood screen that is carried out when the pregnancy is in its fifteenth week. It is however not a recommended procedure. This is because the risks of having a miscarriage have been shown to be escalated when the pregnancy is in this time frame. A major advantage of carrying out this test is that it gives one enough time to make any major decisions that have to be made concerning the pregnancy. In some cases, these decisions may be as drastic as inducing a miscarriage or abortion. In other cases it allows for any course of action that may include treatment of the pregnancy to begin much earlier in the pregnancy. This of course has a ripple effect in the direction that the pregnancy will take but it is all to the mother and her baby's wellbeing.

There are some factors however that impedes diagnosis of a pregnancy using an amniocentesis. These factors include:

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  • The pregnancy has not reached its 14th week
  • Anatomy of the mother, placenta, amount of amniotic fluid or the baby's position in the womb
  • Twins or multiple children in the womb will each require samples to be taken from each of their amniotic fluid sacs which further complicate how the procedure can be carried out.
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Amniocentesis procedure precautions

There are some very important factors that should be considered before undertaking this procedure. An amniocentesis procedure is an invasive pregnancy test that comes with the risks that are associated with invasive pregnancy procedures. Ethical problems normally arise on the choices that must be made and sometimes there are adverse results from the tests that may lead to emotional strain. In the end it is always personal decision that must be made by the pregnant mother.

Preparing for an Amniocentesis

  1. As it is a very high risk and invasive procedure, the mothers consent in a legal form will be required.
  2. There are no dietary limitations like in the fetoscopy procedure where they use a fetoscope
  3. The mother's Rh needs to be determined.
  4. The fetal heartbeat is also monitored to determine the fetal heart rate
  5. Sometimes the mother might be required to empty out her bladder especially in a pregnancy that is in its later stages. This is normally done to avoid and reduce the risk of the bladder being pierced during the procedure.

After the Amniocentesis

  1. Both the mother and her baby are monitored for about an hour or so after the procedure.
  2. The required tests are carried out on the samples that were collected during the amniocentesis procedure.

It is normal for the mother to feel nauseated after the procedure but any abnormalities that may be felt or detected should be immediately reported to a doctor.

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