An amniocentesis is a procedure used to obtain a sample of the amniotic fluid from around the baby.  The amniotic fluid can provide useful information about the health of the fetus.  Some of the tests that can be performed on amniotic fluid include:

  • Testing for fetal chromosome abnormalities like Down syndrome
  • Testing for genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis
  • Testing for fetal infection
  • Testing for fetal metabolic problems

The most common reason that patients choose to have an amniocentesis is to make sure that the baby does not have Down syndrome or a similar type of chromosomal abnormality.  This is most often a concern when a patient is over the age of 35 (the risk increases with age) or when their California Prenatal Screening test is positive.  However, any patient can have an amniocentesis.

An amniocentesis is usually performed at between 15 and 22 weeks gestation.  Since chromosome testing results may take up to 2 weeks and results for more specialized testing can take even longer, most patients choose to have their amniocentesis earlier in this window.
There is a risk of miscarriage associated with amniocentesis but it is small.  The risk of pregnancy loss in studies of amniocentesis ranges from 1:300 to 1:1600.  Our practitioners are experienced experts who have been doing the procedure for many years.  Studies have shown that loss rates are related to the provider’s experience.


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