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Q&A: What to expect during an amnio?

I think I'm going to go through with the amniocentesis. What exactly happens during the procedure? Will it hurt?

Re: I think I'm going to go through with the amniocentesis. What exactly happens during the procedure? Will it hurt?

The Bump Expert

Whether or not to amnio is a tough decision, and while it's hard to know the"right" thing to do, getting as much info as possible will at least help make your choice an educated one. In other words… good question.

You'll go in for the amnio somewhere between weeks 15 and 20. First, your doc will do an ultrasound to locate a pocket of amniotic fluid a safe distance away from both baby and the placenta, which can take up to 20 minutes. Your belly will be cleaned with iodine or alcohol, and your doc will then guide along, thin hollow needle into your stomach, through the abdominal wall and into the fluid sac. About an ounce of amniotic fluid (roughly two tablespoons) will be drawn into the needle, which can take from 30 seconds to a few minutes.(Don't worry, baby will produce more to make up for what's taken.) It may seem scary to have a needle so close to baby, but with ultrasound guiding the entire procedure direct injury is very rare. (On the off chance baby does brush against the needle, he'll simply move away quickly -- same thing you'd do after hitting something sharp.) Once enough fluid is obtained, the needle will be removed, and you're all done! Your doc might check baby's heart rate with an external fetal monitor to make sure he's doing okay. If your blood is Rh negative, you'll receive a shot of immunoglobulin after (unless baby's father is also negative), in case your blood mixed with baby's potentially non-compatible blood during the test.

The extracted amniotic fluid will be sent to a lab, where baby's cells are taken from the fluid, grown in a culture for about ten days, and then studied for chromosomal abnormalities. The cells can also be tested for any genetic disorders you may be at risk for. And, the alpha-feto protein levels in the amniotic fluid will be measured, which is helpful in detecting neural tube defects. Structural defects like a cleft palate can't be detected with this procedure, but if you're interested, baby's gender can. You should get the results back in about two weeks.

For you, the procedure might be somewhat uncomfortable, though some women don't feel a thing – pain levels vary greatly between women, and even between pregnancies. It'll probably feel like cramping, pinching or pressure. You may be offered a local anesthetic first to numb the site, but the anesthesia injection might actually be worse than the amnio itself! Make sure someone is available to drive you home afterwards, because you'll need to take it easy for the rest of the day, and avoid sex, heavy lifting and flying for the next three days. You might experience minor cramping, but if they become severe, notice leaking amniotic fluid or spotting, or develop a fever (possible sign of an infection), call your doctor right away -- these are all signs of potential miscarriage.

American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists. Your pregnancy and birth. 4th ed. Washington, DC: ACOG; 2005.

Paula Kashtan

re: Q: What to Expect in Amnio?

I just had amnio last week. It was more uncomfortable than painful. The procedure itself only lasted about 10 minutes (if that long) mainly because I didn't have a lot of fluid. The most uncomfortable thing was the pressure, but once it was over, there was no pain or discomfort at all. I had no cramping or bleeding afterwards, but I was very, very tired. Definitely make sure whoever is doing the procedure is experienced. Plan on taking the rest of the day and probably part of the next off work.

CLB111106 |

re: Q: What to Expect in Amnio?

I had one a few weeks ago. It was very unpleasant, but not really painful. The prep took longer than the actual procedure. It felt like it took about 2 or 3 minutes to take all of the fluid, but it is hard to judge the actual time. I just wanted it to be over! I felt a strange sensation in the area where the needle went in for about an hour afterwards. I just rested for a few days and there weren't any complications.

Annofbev |

re: Q: What to expect in amnio?

I had one a few days ago. The Dr. was moving the needle all around for about 10 minutes but could not get any fluid. He said the needle kept pushing the membrane away. It was very painful. Now I have to go any attempt it again in a week. If it doesnt work I will not be trying a 3rd time. I will just spend the rest of my pregnancy worrying about my baby without any answers. Repeat amnios are one thing that no one ever tells you about and they are more common than people realize.

Vegas7/7/07 |

re: Q: What to expect in amnio?

A close friend's relative lost her baby due to a mistake the Dr. made doing her amnio. I don't see any good reason to take that risk, and it bothers me that amnio is on the "Pregnancy Checklist" and there is no way to edit it off except to mark it "done." I would prefer to be able to edit my checklist to reflect the choices that I've made for my prenatal care!

gnatty_girl |

re: Q: What to expect in amnio?

I recently had an amnio and never thought that at my age (28) that i would have. The doctor saw some down syndrome "indicators" and my husband and I decided that it would be nice to just have some peace of mind about the whole thing so we would know what to expect. The doctor was wonderful. The needle was inside for about 15 seconds and didn't feel any different than getting a shot or having blood drawn or even an IV (which i think hurts worse than the amnio.) I stayed on the couch for the next 48 hours being catered to and pampered by my husband and family members. :) I experienced some cramping and a really intense headache, but other than that I felt fine. My midwife gave me the results about a week after and everything came out fine. The mental anguish you go through thinking about "what if something is wrong with my baby" is MUCH worse than the momentary discomfort you feel from the the amnio.

sosat01 |

Q&A: What to expect during an amnio?

I had an amnio my last pregnancy 3 years ago, and was absolutely petrified! The sonographer and doctor were wonderful. The actual procedure is very quick, it is the prep and anticipation that was the worst. I am having one in about a week for this pregnancy and will be somewhat anxious, but not like last time. It is more of a weird feeling rather than painful.

NYBlondyO |

Q&A: What to expect during an amnio?

at 15 weeks i had the amino done, the procedure was not painful at all... however make sure you know the risk involved... my doctor did not tell me any risk, once the amino was done the hole they made did not close properly, and i leaked fluid, causing me to go on bed rest for a week, after the week i continued to leak putting my baby at risk. at 20 weeks my fluid did not comeback, and the doctor told me to terminate the pregnancy, i went against he recommended and went to another doctor...since then i am now 23 weeks and have not felt any leakage, but i feel tons of movement from my baby! word to the wise.... GET ALL YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT BEFORE HAVING AN AMINO DONE!!!!!

babypieracci |