What are the risks of amniocentesis?

Amniocentesis is an antenatal test that has been designed to identify chromosomal abnormalities in a child that can lead to birth defects or serious developmental problems. The procedure is recommended for women over 35, since they have a greater risk of having children with chromosomal defects, although all women may require amniocentesis, along with other prenatal tests. There are some risks for amniocentesis, which must be considered before embarking on the procedure, and a good doctor will discuss these risks with the patient before starting. Parents may be asked to sign an understanding form that they recognize the risks of amniocentesis before the procedure will be carried out.

When amniocentesis is performed, a needle is involved in the abdomen to collect a small sample of amniotic fluid. The patient may receive a small paralyzing injection, and the procedure is typically guided by ultrasound to ensure that the doctor knows where he or she is going. The fluid sample is analyzed, in a process that could take several weeks, depending on which tests were requested. The procedure takes place in the second trimester of pregnancy, usually around 15 weeks. The risks of amniocentesis appear to be more in pregnancies of less than 14 weeks.

One of the biggest risks of amniocentesis is spontaneous or pre-term abortion work. Statistics on this risk vary; many studies done in the 1970s, for example, put the risk somewhere around one in 200. However, a study in the United States in 2006 indicated that the risk could be as low as that in 1,600. It seems that more experienced doctors experience a lower spontaneous abortion rate among their patients, and it’s a great idea to ask a doctor about his or her personal experience with complications and abortions.

In some cases, amniocentesis can cause an infection by introducing bacteria through the needle site into the amniotic sac. This is quite rare, but it can cause pain and cramps, or harm the baby. Another of the risks of amniocentesis is trauma to the child, which can cause physical deformations. The use of ultrasound greatly reduces this risk, as it does work with a competent doctor. Amniotic fluid leaks can also be a danger; Although a small amount of leakage is normal, it must be carefully checked to ensure that liquid levels do not fall dangerously low.

One of the lesser known risks of amniocentesis is a condition known as Rh incompatibility. Put briefly, this condition represents a conflict in the blood type between the fetus and the mother, causing the mother’s immune system to attack the fetus as a foreign body. If the amniocentesis results in blood exchange, as can happen when the placenta is accidentally pricked, it can trigger a Rh response from the mother. Ideally, the Rh compatibility risk has already been identified and addressed; there are some preventative measures that can be taken to treat it.

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