The foetus is surrounded by a water-like fluid known as amniotic fluid. This fluid contains the live cells of the foetus and other substances which are helpful in determining the health of the baby before birth.
Amniocentesis is a specialised medical procedure in which a small amount of amniotic fluid is taken out from the womb to perform a laboratory test. Usually, it is done between the 15th and 20th week of pregnancy. When done before 15th week of pregnancy, the chances of miscarriages or other complications increase. It is performed on those women who have the risk of genetic disorders.
Need for amniocentesis
With the help of amniocentesis, the following things could be determined:
- Genetic disorders or chromosomal abnormality: Genetic disorders like Down’s syndrome and sickle cell anaemia can be detected. Down’s syndrome has adverse effect on the mental and physical appearance of the baby and in sickle cell anaemia the red cells are abnormally developed and lyse(break )easily.
- Infection: It also helps to detect any kind of bacterial or viral infection in suspected cases
How is amniocentesis done?
Prior to amniocentesis, an ultrasound is performed which helps in detecting the position and condition of the unborn baby .
Then under ultrasound guidance, a thin needle which is inserted into the uterus through the abdomen. And approximately 15 to 20 ml of amniotic fluid is withdrawn
The sample of the amniotic fluid is then tested in the laboratory.
Risks of amniocentesis
Though amniocentesis is helpful in detecting the health of the unborn baby, it includes some risks to the mother. Following are some of the complications which may occur in pregnant women or in the baby:
- Miscarriage: If amniocentesis is performed before 15 weeks of your pregnancy, the risk of miscarriage is higher.
- Amniotic fluid leakage: It is very rare that the amniotic fluid leaks. And if it so happens, normally it stops within a week without having any effect on your pregnancy.
- Injury during needle insertion: While performing amniocentesis, the unborn baby might move its leg or arm and get a little hurt. But it doesn’t cause any serious injury to the baby.
- Transmission of infection: If you are suffering from any kind of infection like toxoplasmosis, hepatitis C or HIV, these infections may get transmitted to the foetus during amniocentesis.
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