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What should I expect before, during and after amniocentesis?

Before you have amniocentesis, your blood type will be reviewed, and you will discuss the test with your doctor. If you are Rh negative (a particular blood type), you may need an injection after this or any other procedure during pregnancy. You may also meet with a genetic counselor—a medical professional who can also help you evaluate your risk and your options for prenatal testing. Topics for discussion include:

  • Your risk for a child with a genetic disorder.
  • Amniocentesis's potential benefits, risks and alternatives.
  • Results about your pregnancy (neural tube defects, genetic complications, etc.) Some disorders, such as Down syndrome, are routinely tested for, but tests for other problems must be specifically ordered. Note that a normal result does not guarantee a normal baby.

After amniocentesis:

  • You can return to normal activities. (Results are available in 10 to 14 days.)
  • Some women have mild cramping or spotting for the first day following amniocentesis.
  • For the first 24 hours after the procedure, don't take antibiotics—and only take one dose of Tylenol if you need it to relieve cramping.

Risks and possible complications of include:

  • Pregnancy loss (miscarriage). With an experienced doctor, this happens in fewer than 1 out of 300 to 500 procedures.
  • Leaking of amniotic fluid. This happens 1 to 2 times per 100 procedures.
  • Fetal injury. Needle injuries to the fetus are very rare.
  • Soreness at needle insertion site.
  • Mild cramping and spotting.
  • No results. You may not get results from this procedure if a sample of the fluid cannot be obtained or if the fluid cells do not grow in the laboratory.
  • Inaccurate results. Less than 1 percent of the time the results do not reflect the genetic makeup of the fetus.

If you have any of the following after amniocentesis, call your doctor:

  • Vaginal spotting that becomes heavy bleeding
  • Mild cramping that becomes severe cramping
  • Flu-like symptoms (aches, chills) or a fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher

If you have any of these symptoms and can't reach your doctor, go to a hospital emergency room.

Amniocentesis does carry a risk of miscarriage or major complications in 1-in-200 to 1-in-400 pregnancies. Complications include bleeding, leakage of amniotic fluid and infection. The risk of complications increases slightly if an amniocentesis is performed around 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy instead of the standard 15 to 18 weeks. In general, some women experience cramping or discomfort after an amniocentesis. Most experience no problems.

After the procedure, your physician may make specific recommendations. In general, you should avoid any strenuous physical activity, such as exercise, lifting and participating in sports for 24 hours. Some women return to work if their jobs involve no physical activity. Others choose to have a quiet day because the procedure can be draining emotionally.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.