The Decision To Get Amniocentesis

Pregnancy can be a time of ups and downs for many expectant mothers. While it’s great that parents have¬†a lot of medical screening¬†choices, sometimes making those choices can produce a lot of anxiety. Amnio is a test with some risks, and careful thought and conversation with your doctor can help you make the choice that’s right for your family.

Amniocentesis is an invasive procedure where a small sample of fluid from the amniotic sack is taken to conduct tests to screen for birth defects. Guided by ultrasound, a doctor inserts a needle into the mother’s abdomen to remove the fluid.

Because the procedure is invasive there is a risk of complications. Most doctors will tell you that there is about a 1 in 200 chance of miscarriage after the amnio. Because of this risk, it is important to think about the risks involved.

Amniocentesis is usually only recommended if there are other risk factors involved. If the mother is over 35, for example. Sometimes if a screening such as a quad-test, designed to predict the risk of certain birth defects, comes back as positive an amniocentesis might be recommended by teh doctor or genetic counselor.

Screening tests like the triple marker or quad-test have a high rate of false-positives. Getting a positive does not mean that your child necessarily has birth defects, but the risk is higher.

Some parents may choose to do testing to get a more difinitive answer about potential birth defects, and some choose not to. Some parents may decide to terminate a pregnancy, while others would never consider terminating a precnancy.

Even if parents would never terminate a pregnancy, some may want to know about potential risks in order to make medical arrangements for the birth of their child. For example, if there is a high risk of neural-tube birth defects - parents may choose to give birth at a birthing center that is better equipped to handle that, or to have a specialist available in the delivery room.

Ultimately, all screening tests are voluntary and parents need to be prepared to make the decisions that are right for them. It’s a good idea to be as informed as possible, and to discuss all questions with your doctor or midwife.

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