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An amniocentesis is a procedure to take a sample of the amniotic fluid that surrounds your baby in the uterus. The fluid is sent to the lab for tests. This procedure is used to look for problems with your baby's brain or spinal cord, or neural tube defects. A neural tube defect is when the baby's spinal cord or skull does not completely close. An amniocentesis can also show how much your baby's lungs have developed.


Before the Amniocentesis:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • Activity: Your caregiver will tell you if it is OK to get out of bed. Ask your caregiver about any other activity guidelines. If you feel weak or dizzy, sit or lie down right away, and call your caregiver.
  • Call button: You may use the call button when you need your caregiver. Pain, trouble breathing, or wanting to get out of bed are good reasons to call. The call button should always be close enough for you to reach it.
  • External fetal heart monitoring: Caregivers may use this to monitor your baby's heartbeat, and the contractions of your uterus. A small metal disc (monitor) with gel on it is placed on your abdomen. A belt will be fastened around your waist to hold the monitor in place. The monitor may need to be moved as your baby moves inside you. It may also be put on and taken off, or left in place. The monitor is attached to a machine with a TV-type screen, or a printer. The screen or the paper print out shows a tracing of your uterus contracting, and the baby's heartbeat.
  • Fetal ultrasound: This test uses sound waves to show pictures of your baby (fetus) inside your uterus. Jelly-like lotion is put on your abdomen, and a small handle is gently moved through the lotion. As this is done, pictures of your baby can be seen on a TV-like screen. Caregivers can learn the age of your baby, and see how fast he is growing. The movement, heart rate, and position of your baby can also be seen. Caregivers can see your placenta, and can tell if you have more than one baby.
  • Vital signs: Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.

During the Amniocentesis:

  • Caregivers may touch your abdomen to feel the position of your baby. An ultrasound will be done to see your baby's position, locate your placenta, and guide the amnio needle.
  • Your caregiver cleans your abdomen with special soap and water. The soap may make your skin yellow, but it is cleaned off later. Caregivers will put a shot of medicine into the skin of your abdomen. This medicine dulls your pain before the needle is put into your skin. A needle is put through the skin into your abdomen and uterus. Amniotic fluid is removed and sent to the lab. The needle is taken out and a bandage put on the needle site. The amnio may take 15 to 30 minutes.

After the Amniocentesis:

You will be able to go home or be taken back to your room. Do not get out of bed until your caregiver says it is OK. Ask your caregiver for specific activity guidelines to follow after the amnio. You may need to rest more, and avoid lifting, pushing, and pulling objects for a period of time. The small bandage on your abdomen keeps the area clean and dry to prevent infection.


There are risks with having an amniocentesis. You may get an infection or go into early labor. If the labor cannot be stopped, you could deliver the baby early and your baby could die. The needle could hurt you or your baby during the amnio. Caregivers will closely watch you and your baby during the amnio. If you do not have the amnio, you will not know if there are problems with your baby. Call your caregiver if you are worried or have questions about your amnio.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.