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Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems.
Pregnancy: Should I Have Amniocentesis?
Why It Is Done
may be done during your second trimester of pregnancy
to find certain birth defects.
You may choose to have this test because:
- Of your age. As you get older, you have a greater chance of having a baby with a birth defect. Many doctors use 35 and older as the age for higher risk.
You want to know for sure if your baby has a certain health problem. This may help you decide early whether you want to continue your pregnancy or make plans to care for a sick child.
- You or the baby's father carries an abnormal gene that is known to cause a disease, such as Tay-Sachs disease,
sickle cell anemia, or
- You or the baby's father has a family history of a genetic disorder or birth defect.
- Screening tests suggest that your chance of having a baby with a genetic disorder or birth defect is higher than average.
Amniocentesis can tell the gender of your fetus. This is
important when you or the father may be able to pass on a disease that occurs
mainly in one gender (sex-linked), such as
Duchenne muscular dystrophy, both of which occur
mainly in males.
Amniocentesis may be done during your third
- See if your fetus's lungs are mature. This may be done when you
may need to deliver early because of a problem with the
- See whether the amniotic fluid is infected
How To Prepare
You will be asked to empty your bladder
just before the test.
You will need to sign a consent form that
says you understand the risks of amniocentesis and agree to have the test done.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about the need for the test,
its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you
understand the importance of this test, fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
How It Is Done
Amniocentesis is done by your
obstetrician in his or her office or in the hospital.
An overnight stay in the hospital usually is not needed unless problems occur
during the test.
You will be asked to expose your belly. You will
then lie on your back with it slightly raised to relax your belly muscles. Your
lower belly will be cleaned with a special soap.
checks the position of your fetus and the
placenta with a fetal ultrasound. Ultrasound uses
sound waves to make a picture of the uterus, your fetus, and the placenta on a
TV screen. Your fetus's heart rate can also be watched during the test using
ultrasound. For more information, see the topic