The risks and benefits of amniocentesis should be considered before opting for this prenatal test.
Amniocentesis is mostly recommended after false positive or false negative triple screen test which is a simple blood tests used for the same purposes. Amniocentesis is performed with the aid of ultrasound and the amniotic fluid is collected through a needle and takes about 45 minutes. The collected fluid is used for laboratory analysis. 14 and 20 weeks of pregnancy are the most suitable time for the procedure to be performed. However, the amniocentesis can be delayed till the third trimester (America Pregnancy Association 2006). The procedure is indicated mostly in pregnant women above the age of 35, a couple who has a history of previous children with Down’s Syndrome or any other chromosomal abnormality, history of genetic disease in the family and detection of any chromosomal abnormality in any of the parents (Sloane 2002).
The most common chromosomal abnormality looked for in amniocentesis is Down’s syndrome or Trisomy 21. Neural tube defects like spina bifida and genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis are also looked for in the amniotic fluid. More than 70 inborn errors of metabolism can be detected through amniocentesis for instance Tay’ Sachs disease, Fabry’s disease, galactosemia and Gaucher’s disease. The increasing age of the mother is a high risk factor for development of chromosomal abnormalities specifically Down’s syndrome. Hence, the importance of amniocentesis in older age mothers increases. With early detection of the disorders, an abortion can be performed to prevent the birth of a baby suffering from a lifetime of deformity and suffering. However, those who disagree with the notion of abortion, this procedure is mostly useless for them (Sloane 2002; American Pregnancy Association 2006).