Amniocentesis is a test to find out if there is a problem with your pregnancy. Your doctor collects a sample of fluid that surrounds your baby in the womb and sends it for analysis.

What is Amniocentesis?

Amniocentesis is a medical procedure you may be offered during pregnancy. It checks if your baby has a genetic or chromosomal condition. A small sample of the amniotic fluid, that surrounds your baby in the womb and contains some of your baby’s cells, is taken and tested.

The procedure takes about 10 minutes. A long and thin needle is inserted through your stomach and your baby’s amniotic sac. It is guided by an ultrasound image. The needle collects a sample of amniotic fluid. The sample is then sent off for analysis.

You will usually receive two amniocentesis results. The first set of results are usually available in around three days and the second after two weeks. These results will let you know if your baby has the condition the test was looking for. If your test result is positive, your baby has one of the conditions being tested for. The implications of this will be fully discussed with you to help you to decide what to do next.

Many women have a "normal" result, meaning none of the conditions that were tested for were found in the baby. However, a normal result does not guarantee that your baby will be completely healthy. An amniocentesis only checks for certain conditions and does not exclude every condition.

What does the amniocentesis test for?

An amniocentesis tests for a number of chromosomal and other birth abnormalities in a developing foetus. These include:

  • Down syndrome – a genetic disorder that results in the child having some level of learning disability.
  • Edwards' syndrome and Patau's syndrome – serious rare genetic disorders where most babies die before or shortly after being born.
  • Cystic fibrosis – a genetic condition that causes the lungs and digestive system to become clogged with thick, sticky mucus.
  • Muscular dystrophy – a progressive genetic condition causing muscle weakness and disability.
  • Sickle cell disease – a serious genetic condition that causes the red blood cells to develop abnormally so they are unable to carry oxygen around the body properly.
  • Thalassaemia – a genetic condition that affects the haemoglobin in the blood and can cause anaemia.

Why is amniocentesis done at 15 weeks?

Amniocentesis is usually offered at 15 weeks of pregnancy as it has been shown to be safest at this stage of pregnancy.

An early amniocentesis, before 15 weeks, can be performed. However, it is not usually recommended before 15 weeks of pregnancy. This is because the amniotic fluid levels are lower and it carries a higher risk of miscarriage.

In the later stages of pregnancy, an amniocentesis can be performed to check the well-being of your foetus and to diagnose foetal health problems, such as infection. It may also be done to check the lung maturity of your foetus if an early delivery is expected.

What is the most common reason to have an amniocentesis?

The most common reason for having an amniocentesis is to test for Down’s syndrome or other genetic or chromosomal conditions.

An amniocentesis is only offered if you have a higher-than-average chance of giving birth to a child with a genetic abnormality. It may be that: your routine ultrasound scan or screening test indicated a potential problem, such as Down's syndrome, Edwards' syndrome or Patau's syndrome; your previous pregnancy was affected by a genetic condition; or you or your baby’s father have a family history of a genetic condition, such as sickle cell disease, thalassaemia, cystic fibrosis or muscular dystrophy.

Your doctor will fully explain the reasons for offering an amniocentesis to you. You do not have to take an amniocentesis test. It is your decision whether you want it.

What is the recovery process after an amniocentesis

You and your foetus will be monitored for a time after an amniocentesis.

After the procedure, you may feel some cramping similar to period pain. You can take a regular dose of paracetamol (but not ibuprofen or aspirin) to help alleviate this. You might also have light vaginal bleeding or spotting for a few hours.

You should rest at home and avoid strenuous activities for the rest of the day, or as directed by your healthcare provider. You can expect to resume your normal activities the next day.

What is the cost of an amniocentesis

The cost of an amniocentesis will depend on your Ramsay hospital of choice.

You will receive a formal quotation price after your consultation with one of our expert surgeons. This formal quote for your amniocentesis will be valid for 60 days.

Amniocentesis is covered by most medical insurance policies if your doctor recommends it. We advise that you check with and obtain written confirmation from your insurance provider prior to having this test.

Amniocentesis at Ramsay Health Care

Ramsay Health Care works in partnership with highly experienced and skilled doctors who regularly and safely perform this procedure using the latest technology.

Prior to the test, our doctors will discuss in detail with you why they are offering you the test and what the results of the test may mean to you.

You can confidently visit your local Ramsay hospital with our strict protocols in place to minimise the risk of infection, including Covid-19.  

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