Benefits and risks of amnio procedures

Amniotic fluid is a liquid which surrounds, protects and nourishes your growing baby while it's in your womb. During your pregnancy, your doctor may sample the amniotic fluid and have it analyzed as part of your prenatal screening process; this procedure is known as amniocentesis (often abbreviated as "amnio").

The procedure for amniocentesis carries certain risks, including the possibility of triggering a miscarriage as well as creating cramps, vaginal bleeding, infections and infection transmissions, needle injuries to the baby and amniotic fluid leaks. Complications are rare and the amniocentesis risk is considered small; nonetheless, it is an optional test which you have the choice to decline if you would rather avoid these risks.


Why Is Amniocentesis Done?

There are several reasons amniocentesis is performed, and the test may be done at various stages of your pregnancy depending on what your doctor is looking for. Genetic amniocentesis provides doctors with information about your baby's gene makeup, and may be recommended if you are age 35 or older, as genetic birth defects are more common in babies born to older mothers. You may also opt to have it done if you have a family history of certain conditions, such as cystic fibrosis. This amniocentesis procedure is also done to test for spina bifida and Down syndrome. Your doctor may also recommend amniocentesis if inconclusive or unusual results were found during ultrasound examinations.

Amniocentesis and prenatal paternity testing also go hand in hand; it can be used to determine the father of the baby if this is in any doubt. Occasionally, amnio procedures are also ordered to test the baby for infection-based illnesses, or to decrease the amount of amniotic fluid in your womb if it is too high.

Most often, amnio tests are performed after the 15th week of pregnancy, though they can be done as early as the 11th week of pregnancy if your doctor has some reason to believe a birth defect may be present which would be detectable through amniocentesis. Maturity amniocentesis tests can also be done in the third trimester of pregnancy; this is usually performed if your doctor determines you're at heightened risk for birth complications and wants to start preemptive treatment.