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Amniocentesis: Risks and Benefits


Amniocentesis (also called an amniotic fluid test or AFT) is a prenatal test which can provide a wealth of information about the developing baby. Medical providers can determine the baby’s gender, test for genetic abnormalities, and detect fetal infections. It is typically done between 14 and 16 weeks, when indicated. It can also predict fetal lung maturity, which may be done between 32 and 39 weeks.

When is Amniocentesis Indicated?

Though the risks are relatively low, amniocentesis should not be done unless the results have the possibility of altering the course of treatment during the pregnancy. For example, if there is a family history of significant genetic disability, like spina bifida, Down syndrome or cystic fibrosis. If a parent would chose to lawfully abort the pregnancy upon a result showing a likelihood of a genetic disability, an amniocentesis may be indicated. If this test is not offered or is done incorrectly, the parents may be entitled to file a wrongful life or a wrongful birth lawsuit.

Risks of Amniocentesis

The procedure involves the insertion of a long needle into the mother’s abdomen (after local anesthetic) and through the fetal sac. Typically, the needle is inserted with the assistance of ultrasound to avoid contact with the fetus. Amniotic fluid is suctioned out, and then tested in a lab. There can be some side effects and risks to this procedure such as:

  • Miscarriage (second-trimester amniocentesis has a risk of miscarriage—statistics vary from about 1 in 300 to 1 in 500). There is a higher risk for amniocentesis before 15 weeks.
  • Leaking amniotic fluid: If the leak does not properly seal, the baby may suffer from orthopedic problems.
  • Needle injury to the baby: Though extremely rare, the needle may puncture the baby.
  • Uterine infection
  • Infection of baby: The baby may become infected from the mother’s hepatitis C, HIV or other medical conditions.
  • Rh sensitivity: The baby’s blood cells may enter the mother’s bloodstream. Mother’s with Rh negative blood will need a drug to prevent them from producing antibodies against the baby’s blood cells.

Contact Us

Doctors must know when to recommend an amniocentesis, and they must perform the procedure correctly in order to avoid harming the mother or baby. For more information about the risks and benefits of amniocentesis, contact our medical malpractice attorneys at (440) 252-4399 or online for a free consultation.

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