The fetus of pregnant women usually gets surrounded by a water like substance known as amniotic fluid. This fluid contains alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), live fetal cells, and many other substances. What makes this fluid important is that it can provide valuable information about the health of your baby before birth.

What is Amniocentesis

Amniocentesis is one of the widely popular prenatal tests, in which health care providers remove a small fraction of the amniotic fluid from the sac surrounding your fetus. The fluid is then used for testing the health and growth of the baby.

First, the health care providers insert a fine needle into the uterus through the abdomen in order to take the fluid from your body. In the next step, the amniotic fluid is analyzed by experts to get information about the health of your baby. Care providers also run different tests on the amniotic fluid sample to diagnose genetic risk and indication of any serious problems.

Why is it Performed

In most cases, amniocentesis is performed to check for birth defects such as chromosomal abnormalities and Down syndrome. As this test can present a smaller risk for the baby and mother, it is performed only on women with a higher risk of genetic diseases such as the following.

  • Women with abnormal lab screens or abnormal ultrasound
  • Women with a family history of birth defects
  • Women who have given birth to a child with birth defects

It is significant to note that amniocentesis is not capable of identifying all the birth defects. Still, it can be used to check whether your child has any one of these defects or not.

  • Sickle cell diseases
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Down syndrome
  • Tay-Sachs

In addition to that, this test can also detect certain types of neural tube defects such as anencephaly and spinal bifida. Neural tube defects occur in kids with improperly developed spinal column and brain.

When is it Performed

The health care providers at our free womens clinic schedule amniocentesis test between 15th to 18th weeks of pregnancy. The accuracy of this test is estimated to be approximately 99.4.

If you are unable to decide whether you should perform amniocentesis or not, get in touch with health care providers at our low income medical clinic for consultation. We will explain the risks and other issues associated with the test to help you make an informed decision.

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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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