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What are the Risks of Amniocentesis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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Amniocentesis is a prenatal test which is designed to identify chromosomal abnormalities in a baby which may lead to birth defects or serious developmental problems. The procedure is recommended for women over 35, since they have a greater risk of having children with chromosomal defects, although any women may request amniocentesis, along with other prenatal tests. There are some risks to amniocentesis which should be considered before embarking on the procedure, and a good doctor will discuss these risks with the patient before beginning. Parents may be asked to sign a form understanding that they acknowledge the risks of amniocentesis before the procedure will be carried out.

When amniocentesis is performed, a needle is interested into the abdomen to collect a small sample of amniotic fluid. The patient may receive a small numbing injection, and the procedure is typically guided by ultrasound to ensure that the doctor knows where he or she is going. The sample of fluid is analyzed, in a process which may take several weeks, depending on which tests were requested. The procedure takes place in the second trimester of pregnancy, typically around 15 weeks. The risks of amniocentesis appear to be greatest in pregnancies of less than 14 weeks.

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One of the biggest risks of amniocentesis is miscarriage or pre-term labor. Statistics on this risk vary; many studies carried out in the 1970s, for example, put the risk somewhere around one in 200. However, a study in the United States in 2006 indicated that the risk could be as low as one in 1,600. It appears that more experienced doctors experience a lower miscarriage rate among their patients, and it is an excellent idea to ask a doctor about his or her personal experience with complications and miscarriages.

In some cases, amniocentesis may cause an infection, by introducing bacteria through the needle site into the amniotic sac. This is quite rare, but it can cause pain and cramping, or harm the baby. Another of the risks of amniocentesis is trauma to the baby, which may result in physical deformities. The use of ultrasound greatly reduces this risk, as does working with a competent doctor. Leaking of amniotic fluid can also be a danger; although a small amount of leaking is normal, it should be carefully monitored to ensure that fluid levels do not drop dangerously low.

One of the lesser known risks of amniocentesis is a condition known as Rh incompatibility. Put briefly, this condition represents a conflict in blood type between the fetus and the mother, causing the mother's immune system to attack the fetus as a foreign body. If amniocentesis results in the exchange of blood, as may happen when the placenta is accidentally pricked, it can trigger an Rh response on the part of the mother. Ideally, the risk of Rh compatibility will have already been identified and addressed; there are some preventative measures which can be taken to treat it.

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anon318609
Post 8

I am 24 and I will be 25 when our baby is born. I am healthy, fit and young. I have never had any medical issues -- not even a broken toe! So when my screen for down syndrome came in as high risk, I was shocked. I had opted for the test with no intention of anything coming from it, so we were extremely shocked and heartbroken when we got our results back our ratio is 1:250, so it's still quite low, however we have booked in for the amniocentesis because if our baby does have downs we will terminate this pregnancy. I don't believe it is fair that our child be bought into this world and be the

subject of years of harassment and bullying because they were born with special needs. We also live in rural Australia and live 400 KM away from any hospitals or special care. Due to this being our way of life and making a living, it would make it near impossible to have a special needs child.

If we were going to keep our child no matter the outcome, I would not get the amnio because of the risks involved. I find this article very interesting. I think there needs to be more up-to-date statics available. The 1970s were a very long time ago!

I believe every person is entitled to an opinion, but I also believe you need to be standing in the person's exact shoes before you can judge them, and even then you don't know what is going through a person's mind or heart.

If a mother chooses to terminate her pregnancy due to any defect, I can promise you she has had many sleepless nights and cried herself to sleep too often. Its certainly not a choice made with ease, so please keep this in mind when you are voicing your opinion.

I wish you all the best of luck in your pregnancy and in bringing your beautiful children into this world.

anon188039
Post 7

I just recently had an amnio done because my 20 week scan showed up a hole in our baby's heart. I'm only 28 and saying that amnios are only done on older ladies who want to know about chromosonal abnormalities so they have the option to abort is incredibly unfair.

My amnio was done to find out if the heart defect is part of a larger problem or if it is isolated. I would rather deal with difficult news asap so I can arm myself with information beforehand and prepare myself mentally for any challenges up ahead.

anon171532
Post 6

I do not trust any of the new testing or methods for delivering these babies. I do not trust all of the vaccines given-- too many, too young. I would not endanger my child to the amnio or an ultrasound.

Concentrate on being as healthy as you can, strong as you can and have the baby as naturally as you can with a midwife. Everything else is a huge risk. The autism spectrum is huge, and many things can put your child on this spectrum at some level. No one is copping to the causes of autism increases. Money is the reason. Don't take the risk.

Crispety
Post 5

SurfNTurf - I agree with you but you have to understand that receiving the news that your child has Down’s syndrome is really hard to take because you have dreams for your child and you know that this diagnosis will not allow those dreams to come true.

Many women want to know their odds because they realize the demands that raising a child like this will be and they may not be up for it because of their current lifestyle.

I am not saying that it is the right or wrong thing to do to seek an amino test, but I feel that it is up to the individual woman to determine if that is what they want to do. We should not judge their reason for wanting the amnio procedure.

surfNturf
Post 4

Oasis11 - I think that if you decide to have children at an advanced age then you should expect potential problems to develop.

They say that many incidences of autism are found in children of mothers with advanced maternal age. I think that in our culture we are so used to getting what we want that many people feel that they can have a baby at any age with no risks.

Pregnancy is a beautiful thing and a woman should carefully consider the potential outcomes before proceeding.

While most babies are healthy, some are not. With children there is no return policy so if you are unsure it is best to wait until you can accept whatever may come your way. Children are a blessing for most families, but not for all.

oasis11
Post 3

Icecream17 - I agree with you because I am against abortion. However, I understand that it is a women’s choice to decide to abort a fetus if the results of the amino test are not favorable.

This is really the amniocentesis' purpose. If it were me, I would not want to know because I would want to focus on the pregnancy and have my emotions remain as stable as possible so that I don’t harm the baby.

After the baby is born I will deal with what comes of it. Although it is a challenge and a strain on many marriages, many families raise special needs children.

They often say that the children allow them to have a new perspective on life. Usually these children remain innocent in their outlook which is refreshing to most parents.

icecream17
Post 2

I have to say that with the risks associated with the amino procedure I don’t know why women subject themselves to it. The risks of the amniocentesis test are not minor.

I understand wanting to know if they baby will be born with birth defects but I think that you should just wait until the baby is born and see what happens.

Not all children born of an older mother have birth defects and if they do it offers an opportunity to bond with your child in a different way.

Even if the doctor tells a mother that the child has a higher chance of developing Down’s syndrome a mother should still consider that the baby is a potential life that should have a chance at survival.

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