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What is amniocentesis?

It is a test for chromosomal abnormalities in which a sample of amniotic fluid that surrounds your baby in the womb is removed using a very fine needle.

Why is amniocentesis done?

It can detect Down's syndrome and other rare chromosonal conditions.

How does it work?

Cells from the baby's skin are shed into the amniotic fluid. These sample cells can be grown in the laboratory and studied to detect various chromsonal disorders in the unborn child.

What will happen?

On the day of your appointment bring your notes to the Day Ward in the Scanning Department. Your partner or a friend will be welcome, but due to the fact that you may be in the ward for up to two hours, it is easier to leave children with a sitter.

On arrival in the Scanning Department you will have the opportunity to discuss the amniocentesis test and ask questions. You will be asked to empty your bladder before going into the scanning room. Then you will have a scan to determine the position of the baby, the placenta (afterbirth), and the deepest pool of amniotic fluid (the water around the baby). A cold liquid will then be used to clean your skin. Green sterile covers will be placed over the lower half of your body and you will be asked to keep your arms in a comfortable position on your chest or by your side.

While watching the scan monitor, the doctor passes a very fine needle through your skin into the amniotic fluid:

ScanningDept AMNIO

You may briefly feel a sharp pain as the needle is inserted, but once the needle is in position this will stop (much like having a blood test). A small amount of the fluid is withdrawn. A spot plaster is put on and you will return to the ward to rest.

When will I get the results?

The midwives will make arrangements to telephone you as soon as the results are available which is usually 1-3 weeks later. The length of time you wait for your results depends on how quickly the cells from the amniotic fluid grow. There is a new technique known as FISH (Fluorescent In Situ Hybridisation) and it is now possible to obtain results for a specific condition, e.g., Down's Syndrome, within one week. This service is now offered to all women in Grampian.

Very rarely the cells grow slowly or do not grow at all if the cell culture fails. You will be told as soon as possible about this, which is usually between 10 and 14 days after the procedure and you will have the opportunity to discuss whether or not you wish to have a repeat amniocentesis.

What are the risks of the amniocentesis test?

There is an increased risk of miscarriage. Although the risks of miscarriage from amniocentesis are still small - at approximately 1:200 (0.5%) you are advised to avoid heavy lifting or strenuous exercise for 48 hours following the test. If after the amniocentesis you should experience painful abdominal cramps, bleeding or leaking of amniotic fluid from the vagina, or feel unwell with a temperature, please contact the Day Ward immediately. At weekends and evenings you can telephone your GP or contact Rubislaw Ward (you will receive this number when you have your amniocentesis).

Further Information

If you have any further questions about amniocentesis, you can telephone the midwifery staff in the Day Ward, Monday to Friday 8.30am - 5.00pm on 01224 552366 (Direct Line), or you can email one of the midwives in the Scanning Department about your concerns and they will respond (via email) as quickly as possible.