Women around the world have used amniocentesis for over a hundred years
(Woo, 2006). Along with the many benefits of amniocentesis, there are still many risks
Involved with the procedure. The mother has to decide between knowing with certainty of
her unborn child's diagnosis versus the risk of permanent damage or even the death of her
fetus. Amniocentesis negatively affects both the mother and the fetus.
Amniocentesis is a prenatal test that allows parents to gather information about
[their] baby's health and development. Amniocentesis will allow doctors to diagnose and
perhaps even treat any genetic abnormalities that the test might reveal. The test is
Performed by taking a sample of the mother's amniotic fluid which is the clear, pale,
yellow fluid that surrounds and protects the baby (Baby Center: "Amniocentesis", 2005).
The first reported case of amniocentesis was in 1877 by Prochownick, Von Schatz
and Lambl. That particular procedure was Tran abdominal amniocentesis and performed
during the third trimester of pregnancy. Fuchs and Riis reported the first use of amniotic
fluid examination in diagnosis of genetic disorders in 1956. "They determined fetal sex
cells in amniotic fluid based on the presence or absence of the Barr body" (Woo, 2006
para 3). The ultrasound was used in assisting amniocentesis in 1972 and was primarily
pioneered by Jens Bang and Allen Northeved. Even with the technological advances
made through out the years, the fatality rate of amniocentesis during the early stages of
pregnancy was 2.3%, and therefore it was not a generally accepted practice (Woo, 2006).
At the beginning of the procedure, the mother is positioned flat on an examination
table and the area where the needle will be inserted is sterilized with either rubbing
Alcohol or an iodine solution. While local anesthetic is an option, many women choose not to have the anesthetic as the pain from the shot is very similar to the amniocentesis it
self (Baby Center: "Amniocentesis" What is amniocentesis? 2005). An "ultrasound is
used to help guide a hollow needle into the amniotic sac" to draw out the amniotic fluid
("High Risk Pregnancy", 2006 para 2). The amniotic fluid that is removed is only about
two teaspoons and the baby will replace the fluid (Baby Center: "Amniocentesis" What's
the procedure like? 2005) The needle goes through the stomach and the uterus
(Professional and Researchers, 2006). The amniotic fluid that is withdrawn is sent to the
laboratory for analysis ("High Risk Pregnancy", 2006).
Amniocentesis can be performed as early as the eleventh week after the mother's
last menstrual period (Professional and Researchers). Usually amniocentesis is done
between the thirteenth and the twentieth week of pregnancy (Baby Center:
"Amniocentesis", 2005). This is during the second trimester (Professional and
Amniocentesis is done for various reasons. Amniocentesis can determine if fetus
has chromosomal abnormalities, neural tube defects, and some inherited disorders
(Amniocentesis: What type of disorders can be determined by amniocentesis?, 2006). A
few examples of chromosomal disorders that amniocentesis can is Down Syndrome and
Edwards Syndrome. Some other genetic disorders that amniocentesis can help diagnose
are cystic fibrosis, sickle cell, Tay-Sachs disease and Huntington's disease (Baby Center:
Amniocentesis testing can also be done to check for lung maturity of the fetus.
"After the thirty-second week of pregnancy, amniotic fluid can be tested to see if the
baby's lungs have matured enough for the baby to be born early". The test can also check
for Rh sensitization. Rh sensitization is where there are problems between the mothers
blood and the baby's blood (Amniocentesis,...