When I found out I was pregnant I had a slew of questions, like what does labor and delivery feel like? What does a fetus kicking feel like? I never thought to wonder what an amniocentesis feels like, though. For so many of us, we don't consider what these prenatal procedures might be like... until we have to.
Amniocentesis is a test done on pregnant people, usually between 15 and 20 weeks of pregnancy, to help determine fetal health, as described by the Mayo Clinic. It consists of using a large needle to penetrate the patient's abdomen and uterus in order to extract a sample of amniotic fluid that surrounds the growing fetus. This fluid contains fetal cells, which can be used to test for genetic diseases or paternity, or assess lung maturity or infection. While there are risks to the procedure, including (but not limited to) needle injury to your fetus or even miscarriage, it is largely considered safe. Data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show the risk of miscarriage after amniocentesis is less than .5%. (Furthermore, a 2015 recent study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology suggests that amniocentesis may, in fact, pose no risk of miscarriage at all.)
Amniocentesis is generally not a routine test for all pregnant people — it's done because of specific concern, like inherited disease or abnormal ultrasounds. As you can imagine, "specific concern" and "pregnancy" is not a happy combination. The idea that I might require the procedure was so far from my mind when I got pregnant that I didn't delve too much into the specifics. (Also, the idea of a very large needle penetrating my uterus was enough to put me off reading any more than I had to.) But when blood work came back showing that both my husband and I were carriers for cystic fibrosis — an incurable, life-threatening genetic disease —I was advised to schedule the procedure in order to rule out the illness... or prepare for it.
My story turned out well. Statistics were, mercifully, on my side. But the procedure itself, while ultimately helpful, was pretty harrowing. In and of itself, it's no picnic (I repeat very large needle) but it was really the combination of worry and the physical that made it so tough. But I'm one person. What do other people have to say about their experiences? Read on: