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What is an amniocentesis?

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.

Why do I need an amniocentesis?

You may need an amniocentesis if:

  • You are pregnant at age 35 or older.
  • Routine screening has shown that your unborn child may have a genetic disease.
  • You or your partner have a history that puts your child at risk. This may include exposure to radiation, medicines, chemicals, infections, or drugs.
  • You already have a child with a birth defect, mental retardation, or an inherited disorder. An inherited disorder is one that runs in your family.

What else should I know about an amniocentesis?

The procedure will take 15 to 30 minutes. It may be done in the hospital or in a doctor's office. After the procedure, you may feel a small amount of pain or cramping in your abdomen. You will need to rest. Do not exercise or lift heavy objects until your caregiver says it is okay.

What are the risks of an amniocentesis?

You may get an infection or go into early labor. If the labor cannot be stopped, you could give birth early. This can be life-threatening for your baby. The needle could hurt you or your baby during the procedure.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You are more than 20 weeks pregnant and your baby is moving much more or much less after the amniocentesis.
  • You have questions or concerns about your pregnancy or your amniocentesis.

When should I seek immediate help?

Seek help immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have pain or cramping in your abdomen that does not go away or gets worse.
  • You have a fever and bloody or pink liquid is coming from your vagina.

Care Agreement

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. 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.

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