7 things you’ll need to know about an amniocentesis

Would you accept the risks getting an amniocentesis entails? Find out more about this prenatal test.

A pregnancy can be a joy-filled journey, since you’ll marvel at the first glimpse of your little one through an ultrasound, feel the first kicks, and  even learning your baby’s gender.

That said, it can also be a full nine months or so that is filled with anxiety, worries, and what-ifs.

Expectant parents usually go through countless prenatal tests, some compulsory in Singapore, and some that aren’t.

An amniocentesis is one of the options available to expectant women. This in an invasive test where a long, thin needle extracts fluid from the amniotic sac around your foetus. The fluid contains cells shed by your baby during pregnancy, which has vital information about your baby’s health ― such as whether your baby has Down syndrome, or any other chromosomal abnormalities.

One mum, Julie Siew, was offered the option of amniocentesis when she was pregnant with her daughter. “According to my OSCAR scan results, the chances of my daughter having Down syndrome was 1 to 880, which is considered high. I decided not to go for the amniocentesis test because of the risks of miscarriage, plus, I knew that I would keep my baby no matter what the results were.”

The fluid contains cells shed by your baby during pregnancy, which has vital information about your baby’s health.

 In case you are put in the difficult position of deciding whether to go for this test, here is the lowdown on vital facts about this procedure.

1.      It’s a quick procedure
The procedure takes around 10 minutes, says SmartParents ob-gyn expert Dr Christopher Chong. “Under sterile conditions, a very fine needle is used to go through the mum’s abdomen and through the water bag. Some 20cc of amniotic fluid is withdrawn using a syringe, and care is taken to avoid the placenta and the foetus,” he describes.

After the needle is withdrawn, light pressure is put on the needle site for a couple of minutes, and a plaster will be placed on it. “There is no need for sedation or pain relief as it’s like drawing blood from one’s veins,” he adds. The sample is later sent to the cytogenics lab and you’ll get the results in two to three weeks.

2.      It can diagnose chromosomal abnormalities
The gynae usually recommends an amniocentesis when a definite diagnosis is needed, notes Dr Chong. This includes an abnormal screening test result for Down syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities like muscular dystrophy and Tay Sachs disease, previous family history of chromosomal abnormalities or a neural tube defect, abnormalities in the foetus in a previous pregnancy, or in older mums. “The risk of abnormalities increase with the mum’s age,” Dr Chong says. “For instance, the risk of Down syndrome is 1 in 100 at age 45, and 1 in 50 at age 50.”