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Do You Need An Amniocentesis? Here's What You Should Consider

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Most pregnant women want to do everything they can to have a healthy pregnancy and, eventually, a healthy baby. Prenatal care can be confusing, though, because some tests and screenings are mandatory while others are optional and/or even unnecessary. If you have a family history of genetic diseases, have had a worrisome result on a screening test, or like me, are old AF, it's normal to ask yourself, "But do you need an amniocentesis? According to experts, the procedure is only recommended in certain circumstances, and it can have some serious risks that every pregnant woman needs to be aware of before she books the appointment and subjects herself to some potential complications.

According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), an amniocentesis is a diagnostic test for chromosome abnormalities, neural tube defects, and genetic disorders. This test is generally performed between 14 and 20 weeks gestation. During the procedure, your doctor will use an ultrasound to guide a needle into the amniotic sac around your baby, and collect a small amount of amniotic fluid to be tested. According to the APA the procedure "takes about 45 minutes, although the collection of fluid takes less than five minutes."

The decision to have prenatal genetic testing is a personal one. According to the APA, an amniocentesis is generally offered after an abnormal screening test result, when a patient has a family history or other risk factors for genetic anomalies, or if a pregnant patient requests one. The test can also be used in the third trimester to evaluate lung maturity before a preterm delivery, or for paternity testing. In making this choice, it's important to ask yourself whether the results would change your plans to continue or terminate a pregnancy, would allow you to prepare to care for a child with special needs, or if you think you'd rather not know.

According to the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), all pregnant people should be offered an amniocentesis, regardless of age, but it may be particularly important for pregnant women over 35, whose babies may be more at risk for chromosomal anomalies. However, even if your doctor offers or recommends one, a pregnant person can always opt out of an amniocentesis if they don't wish to have the procedure.

Like other procedures, it's important to discuss potential risks and benefits of an amniocentesis with your doctor. According to the Mayo Clinic, an amniocentesis is an invasive procedure and definitely has risks, including miscarriage, leaking amniotic fluid, needle injury, and infection for you or your baby.

In the end, the decision to have or not to have an amniocentesis is entirely your call.