Amniocentesis has been around for 20 years, and is currently the most well-known and most popular method of genetic screening today. Although it is a very controversial procedure, it is also one that has helped countless families make life-altering decisions. The debate is over whether or not the families should have the knowledge to make those decisions in the first place. Either way, amniocentesis has proven to be an effective way to find genetic information on harmful diseases.
Amniocentesis is a procedure used to check the possible genetic defects in the uterus of a pregnant woman. An amniotic needle is inserted into the womb and about one ounce of amniotic fluid is removed. The fluid is then cultured and analyzed for certain genetic defects. Since the procedure is usually performed on women who are 14-16 weeks into their pregnancy, if an extremely serious defect is observed, there is still the option of abortion.
More than 75 abnormalities and the sex of the fetus can be detected by analyzing the fetal cells in the amniotic fluid such as Tay-Sachs, incomplete brain development, and various genetic disorders. Amniocentesis has proved to be 99% accurate in locating the gene causing Down syndrome. .
Although amniocentesis is considered a fairly safe procedure, there are some risks involved. There is about a 1/250 chance of a miscarriage when this procedure is performed. That's about 3.5%. The actual miscarriage percentage for all pregnant women is 3%, so there is not too much risk involved there. However there is a risk and that is why the procedure is mostly done on women over 35, because they have a better chance of producing a baby with Down syndrome.
Some people think that this procedure may result in damage of the fetus, when the truth is that this is very uncommon. The baby is not hurt, or in any pain during the procedure. The amniotic fluid taken from the uterus replaces itself within a few days.