Amniocentesis: Answers to the Most Commonly Asked Questions
An amniocentesis is extremely accurate -- the results are correct about 98 to 99 percent of the time. Most of the time, the results come back normal. However, it is important to know that an amniocentesis cannot pick up all birth defects. If there are specific problems you're worried about, talk to your healthcare provider about other testing that may be available.
If you have an abnormal amniocentesis, you're sure to have many questions about what the results mean. You may be facing extremely difficult choices, such as whether to continue or terminate the pregnancy. Your healthcare provider or a genetic counselor can help answer your questions, explain the results to you, and guide you in the decision-making process.
Keep in mind that the ultimate decision is up to you and your partner. You may want to seek counseling or support from outside sources, such as family, friends, a spiritual leader, a therapist, or a support group. Your healthcare provider can refer you to appropriate counselors or support groups, and may be able to get you in touch with other families who have already gone through a similar situation.
If you're trying to decide whether or not to have an amniocentesis, there are a few things you can do to help guide your decision. One of the most important steps is to meet with a genetic counselor beforehand. The genetic counselor can give you an idea of your individual risk for having a baby with a chromosomal or genetic condition and further discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure.
You may also want to consider whether knowing about your baby's condition will change how you approach your pregnancy. If you know you would continue the pregnancy regardless of the test results, you may choose to avoid the small risk of miscarriage and other problems that can come with having an amniocentesis.
On the other hand, knowing about potential health complications before your child is born may help you and your partner prepare for parenting a child with special needs. In addition, some conditions can be treated while the baby is still in the uterus. If there is an increased chance your baby has such a condition, you may want to get an amniocentesis.
You can talk to your healthcare provider about other testing options as well. For example, chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is another test that can detect certain genetic conditions. It can be done earlier in the pregnancy (weeks 10 to 12) than an amniocentesis. However, it has similar risks. Screening tests are less invasive testing options, but these tests can only tell you the chances you'll have a baby with Down syndrome -- they can't tell you for certain whether your baby does or doesn't have the condition.
Ultimately, the decision about whether to have an amniocentesis is yours and your partner's to make. The decision is a very personal one, and there are no right or wrong choices. Take your time to gather all the information you need about an amniocentesis, as well as other testing options, so you can make an informed decision that is best for you and your family.