Posted on: August 16, 2021 | Body, education, Health, Information, Prenatal

Tha-Thump…tha- thump…tha- thump…tha- thump…tha-thump

Her heart was racing. Lying on the exam room table had been a commonplace occurrence throughout the pregnancy thus far. Today was a little different. There had been some recent findings at the last prenatal appointment, and an amniocentesis had been presented as an option for further investigation. Claudia’s doula had prepped her with information regarding the testing. Using her “B.R.A.I.N” Claudia opted to participate in the procedure. Today was the day, and Claudia’s nerves were in overdrive. 

What is an Amniocentesis

Amniocentesis is a procedure in which a sample of amniotic fluid is taken during pregnancy. The amniotic fluid provides protection to the baby while in utero. This protection as buoyancy allows the baby to move freely about the womb and remain protected from injury and infection while in the womb. Amniotic fluid is generally clear or pale yellow and has a musky odor. Cells from the shedding of the fetus are found in the amniotic fluid. The testing of amniocentesis provides insight into fetal health problems, checks for lung maturity, and genetic information.  

How it is Done

Generally, an amniocentesis can be conducted between 15-20 weeks gestation. This optional testing is often offered to individuals that are at a greater risk for birth defects.  The birthing person lies on an exam table wearing a hospital gown. Heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels are monitored prior to the screening. The abdomen is prepped by sterilizing with antiseptic, and a numbing agent is administered. 

An ultrasound is used to guide the insertion of the needle and removal of the sample fluid, once the numbing of the skin has taken effect. Once the needle is inserted into the abdomen and into the amniotic sac, a syringe is filled with a small retrieval of fluid. Then the needle is removed. Succeeding the testing, monitoring of the heart rates of baby and the birthing person is conducted for at least an hour.  

What is Measured & Why is it Done

An amniocentesis measures some genetic factors and provides insight to the development of the baby while in utero. This testing screens for Down Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis, Tay Sachs disease, and spina bifida to name a few. Amniocentesis is also utilized in paternity testing as fetal DNA is determined through the process.  

While any expecting individual may opt for an amniocentesis in their second or third trimester, there are characteristics that may make having an amniocentesis more apt. Family history of genetic diseases, advanced maternal age, Rh disease, and abnormalities in maternal screenings are some instances where an amniocentesis may be a favorable option. 

What are the Risks of an Amniocentesis

With anything surrounding birth and baby, assessing the risk-factor is commonplace. Understanding implications of cause-and-effect may help one with decision making. Cramping is a common outcome of the amniocentesis procedure. There is a risk of an infection. Irritation in the area of the insertion and leaking of fluid are additional risk factors. While amniocentesis are conducted in a sterile environment and pose minimal risk to the pregnant individual and baby, there is an up to 1-in-400 chance of miscarriage. Preterm labor may also occur with the disruption of the womb-space. 

Weighing the benefits and risks of having an amniocentesis performed is a way to gauge the importance to you. Some families like the knowledge of a baby’s status with the ability to plan for the outcome. Some families wish to hold off on the information until birth. 

Having a conversation with your partner, your provider, and your labor doula is a wonderful way to gain more insight into understanding the benefits, risks, and alternatives to this procedure.