Amniocentesis is a diagnostic test that may be recommended between the 15th to the 18th week of pregnancy. Your gynaecologist will suggest this test only if any of your previous screening tests indicate a high risk for certain chromosomal disorders like Down's syndrome. Amniocentesis is performed to give you an accurate picture of the chromosomal structure of the fetus.
The fetus is contained within a sac in the uterus. The amniotic sac is filled with amniotic fluid that acts as a cushion to protect the baby. Cells that slough off from the skin of the fetus due to normal metabolic actions are present in this fluid. During the procedure, the technician draws out a small amount of fluid from the sac for analysis. the needle is guided by an ultrasound to prevent any harm to the fetus. The fluid obtained in this manner is sent for analysis. The cells of the fetus are used to delineate the chromosomal structure and rule out abnormalities. Amniocentesis provides definitive knowledge about genetic disorders in the fetus before you consider whether you wish to continue the pregnancy.
Studying the chromosomal structure reveals information about the sex of the fetus. However, use of amniocentesis for sex –determination is prohibited.
In the later stages of pregnancy, amniocentesis may be prescribed to look for any signs of an infection if your membranes have ruptured early or to assess the maturity of the lungs. It is also used in cases where there is a mismatch of the Rh factor in the blood of the mother and the fetus.
The procedure can lead to infections, injury to the fetus or miscarriage in rare instances.
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