Amniocentesis is a test in which some amniotic fluid is withdrawn from the space around the baby with a needle inserted through the mother’s abdomen
. The fluid is then analyzed in order to detect certain birth defects.

Because this test does come with some risk of miscarriage, it is usually only offered to women who:

  • Have an abnormal ultrasound or abnormal lab screens
  • Have a family history of certain birth defects
  • Have previously had a child or pregnancy with a birth defect
  • Had an abnormal genetic test result in the current pregnancy 

According to WebMD, the risk of miscarriage is from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 43,000. That is a very large range of variance, probably because different studies have shown different rates, suggesting quite different sampling methodology among the studies, so they really can’t be compared.

The question to ask is, do I really need the information an amniocentesis will provide? Will I be keeping the baby no matter what the findings are? Then perhaps the risk is not worth it. That is up to you.

The most common reason to have an amniocentesis is to check for Down Syndrome in babies born to women over 35. Incidence is 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 1,100. Although the risk of having a Down Syndrome baby rises with age, 80% of Down Syndrome babies are born to mothers younger than 35.

Other abnormalities that can be tested for are neural tube defects, and several hundred genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, Tay Sachs Disease, Testing can also reveal lung maturity issues and paternity.

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