Amniocentesis In Depth: Why You Might Accept The Risks

flickr / Sara Neff
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Pregnancy is chock full of worries. They may include things like whether or not your baby name makes you seem like a unique and intelligent person. Or, if the paper-stock on your pregnancy announcement was luxurious enough. Just kidding! You’re probably sweating over if the kid is going to have all their toes and fingers and stuff. That’s where prenatal testing like amniocentesis comes into the picture.

But far from allaying your biggest worries, tests like amniocentesis can often send you into worry overdrive. Which is like Maximum Overdrive but with a scooch fewer evil trucks. So if you’re at the crossroads with a decision to make about amnio (that’s the hip way to say it), get the details below. You’ll feel a bit less worried and far more empowered.

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What’s The “Amnio” In Amniocentesis?

The name for the test breaks down like this: “amnio” for the amniotic sack that surrounds the baby, and “centesis” for puncture. Which gives you a pretty good idea about how the test goes down.

flickr / kc7fys

flickr / kc7fys

Cells shed by your partner’s passenger float around in the amniotic fluid. These cells carry information about the health of your gestating kid. The issue is in capturing that fluid, because nature made it hard to access. Much like her feelings about those cargo shorts you insist on wearing.

When Is Amniocentesis Recommended?

Amniocentesis, much like it’s “less invasive” cousin chorionic villus sampling (CVS), is offered when your partner is over the age of 35 (which isn’t meant to make her feel old, contrary to popular belief).

Doctors offer amnio if you have given birth to a previous child with a neural-tube defect, or having a family history of genetic issues. Ultrasounds or blood screenings indicating an increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities also prompts an amnio offering.  None of those abnormalities will include your freakishly extreme and debilitating good looks.

flickr / Stephen Kruso

flickr / Stephen Kruso

Offering amnio begins at week 15. If the kid needs an early delivery, determining fetal lung maturity requires amnio later in the pregnancy. It can also be done as treatment to remove excess amniotic fluid in cases where your partner has produced too much too early, like most child pop-stars.

What Can Amniocentesis Diagnose?

This is where amnio and CVS begin to differ somewhat in their diagnostic capabilities. Unlike CVS, amnio is capable of diagnosing certain neural tube defects like anencephaly and spina bifida.

Like CVS, amnio can also diagnose a full slate of chromosomal issues that range from Down Syndrome to Tay Sachs disease. However, CVS can diagnose these about a month earlier than amnio.

What Kind Of Awfulness Will She Endure?

This one is pretty awful. The test involves inserting a very long hollow needle through her abdominal wall and into her womb in order to suction up some fluid. Just to clarify: a scary-length needle will be inserted into her belly. From the outside.

flickr / Vanessa Porter

flickr / Vanessa Porter

Sources say she will feel a “pinch” and then some “pressure” and “cramping.” You will feel all the bones in your hand being crushed as she hold your hand and learns those terms are probably understatements.

What Are The Risks

The risk of either of you fainting at the sight of the needle is pretty high. But also unique to amnio is the risk of the needle injuring the fetus. An ultrasound occurs during the procedure to mitigate that risk.

Of course, anytime something is going from outside the body to the inside of the body there is also a risk of infection. Just like the way you infected her with your baby. Good job!

flickr / Jason Lander

flickr / Jason Lander

Should You Do It?

Some parents feel the risks (and the needle) associated with amnio are too big. They might feel more comfortable just relying on less invasive screening tests like nuchal translucency to give them an idea of possible chromosomal issues. Others will skip the tests entirely to avoid the stress of results. Still others will opt for any tests to determine if they should carry the child to term, or to prepare to raise a child with affected by a genetic disorder.

In the end it is a personal decision. The key is to try and do whatever it takes to keep from worrying about anything more than whether Winchester is an on point baby name, or totally terrifying.

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