For me, choosing to have an amniocentesis was an easy decision, if I thought about it logically. After all, I am in two high-risk categories, and my risks, statistically, of having a baby with a disorder that could be identified by an amnio were higher than having a miscarriage due to an amnio. One of my high risk factors, Type 1 diabetes, which I've had for 20 years, put my baby at a higher risk for spina bifada, neural tube defects, and heart problems. I knew that I definitely wanted to know about any incidence of the first two issues (which the amnio can detect) before the babe was born.
Even though this decision may be a logical one, it still wasn't without concern, or emotional turmoil. After all, there is a very small chance of miscarriage associated with amniocentesis, approximately 1 in 200 to 300 births, depending on the clinic and doctor performing the procedure.
In case you don't know, amniocentesis is a procedure performed on pregnant women who have concerns about genetic abnormalities in their fetuses. The procedure usually happens between 16 and 20 weeks, and is done by inserting a large needle into the amniotic sac. Ultrasound imaging is used to guide the needle into the amniotic sac. The fluid is then cultured and analyzed to check for genetic abnormalities, fetal lung maturity, evidence of spina bifida, infection, or chromosome analysis for conditions such as Trisomy 18 and Down's Syndrome.
I was well informed and well prepared for my amnio, which I had done at 17 weeks. I also felt as if I was in very capable hands, as my perinatologist (a high-risk ob-gyn), who I trust innately, actually performed the procedure. Still, I was definitely nervous. I snapped at my husband on the way to the appointment when he asked to stop to get coffee on the way to the appointment. I mean, really? Coffee? Drinking coffee during an amnio? At least one thing boded well: the dude wasn't afraid of needles or medical procedures (this will hopefully reap benefits during labor).
The best part of the entire appointment was the extensive ultrasound that was performed prior to the amnio. The tech took about 60 images of our baby, who looked perfect (and quite active) in all of them. We also found out the sex — a boy! — which was thrilling as well.
As for the amnio, it took hardly any time. From beginning to end, the procedure took perhaps two minutes. This may be unusual, as my doctor is quite the pro at performing the procedure. The needle didn't hurt at all when it was inserted, though I wouldn't recommend actually looking at it while it's happening. However, you will feel a slight pulling sensation as the fluid is drawn up through the needle. Overall, though, it was easy-peasy.
Afterwards, I took it easy for the next two days, and worked from home the first day. This isn't absolutely necessary, but I wanted to be as careful as possible. You will want to avoid strenuous activities and lifting afterward, though, no matter what.
The hardest part of the amnio, for me, was waiting for the test results. It takes two weeks for the results to come back, and those two weeks are pretty nerve wracking. It's best to try to keep busy, I've found, while waiting for results, and continue to think positively. I'd been told during a genetic counseling session, prior to the amnio, that if it was good news, I'd be
called during the day, but if there were complications, I'd be called at night, where I wouldn't be at work, and hopefully in a calm, centered place, to take the bad news.
They called at 10 in the morning. I was elated to hear that my baby was, indeed, perfectly normal. It definitely put my mind at ease, and I've been able to spend my time, since then, thinking about a billion other pregnancy-and baby-related things besides my baby's questionable health.
So, would I do it again? Most definitely. My advice, though, is to thoroughly research the statistics surrounding the clinic and clinician with whom you will have your amnio performed. If you don't like those stats, go elsewhere. It's worth it. While not everyone needs or wants an amnio, I would definitely recommend it for those expectant mommies who are in
high-risk categories or who know that they need definite assurance over their baby's health.