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Amniocentesis, also referred to as simply an ‘amnio’, is a test that many women are offered and some take advantage of while pregnant. It is a test that analyzes the amniotic fluid that surrounds your baby while in utero. The amniotic fluid contains cells that match your baby’s and can give your doctor or midwife little clues and hints about your baby.

Amniocentesis is normally performed when a woman is between 15 weeks and 18 weeks pregnant. To perform amniocentesis your doctor or midwife will hook you up to an ultrasound machine and then insert a needle through your belly into the uterus and remove approximately 2 tablespoons of fluid to test and analyze. An amniocentesis can also be performed when you are 37 weeks or later in order to check your baby’s lungs and determine if they are mature enough for the baby could breathe on his own outside of the womb.

Amniocentesis is normally performed on women who are at high risk for a various number of reasons. These reasons might include

  • Advanced maternal age (35 or older)
  • Diabetes
  • Previous children with medical problems at birth
  • Abnormal triple screen results
  • RH factor

Not only can amniocentesis determine if your baby is healthy or has any medical problems, but it can also unmistakeably determine the gender of your baby. For couples who want to know, ahead of the birth if they are having a boy or girl, is a pleasant and exciting plus to the amnio.

Amniocentesis is not done as a routine procedure during pregnancy because it does carry some risks. About 1 in 200 pregnancies will end in a miscarriage caused by the amniocentesis procedure. Therefore, an amnio is only performed when previous tests or ultrasounds suggest that there is a possibility of a severe medical problem. Even when this possibility exists, some women exercise their option of not having the test, and wait till their baby is born to deal with any problems he may or may not have. If you are not sure which choice is best for you, talk to your doctor or midwife.

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