Amniocentesis is a diagnostic test that can be performed during pregnancy to learn if the developing baby has any birth defects and genetic problems. It is most often offered to women who are at increased risk for bearing a child with birth defects. Women may choose genetic counseling before the procedure to learn about other prenatal tests and to make an informed decision regarding options for prenatal diagnosis. Amniocentesis, usually done between 14 and 20 weeks of pregnancy in a doctor’s office or medical center, is 99% accurate for diagnosing Down syndrome. Before the test a patient’s blood type is determined, and if she has Rh-negative blood type, she may get a shot of medicine called RhoGAM. A pregnancy ultrasound is performed to locate the baby, and a medication to numb the patient’s skin is provided. Then a long, thin needle is inserted through the belly and into the womb. A small amount of fluid is removed from the sac that surrounds the baby. The fluid is sent to a laboratory where testing may include genetic studies and measurement of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) levels. Results are back in about two weeks. Amniocentesis also may be used later in pregnancy to diagnose infection and other situations.
The Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialists at the University of Alabama Birmingham Women & Infants Center are available on-site 24 hours a day to manage problems associated with high-risk pregnancies. Our physicians are experts at managing conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, Rh sensitization, multiple births, premature delivery risk, and other potential complications.
MFM specialists at the UAB have access to treatments that often are not yet available elsewhere, which can reduce the chance of a recurrent preterm birth by one-third to one-half. We are one of the nation’s most advanced MFM programs, as evidenced by being one of only 14 centers participating in the national Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network for high-risk pregnancy research. To support our research we developed Alabama’s first OB/GYN Research and Diagnostic Laboratory, which implemented the first comprehensive first-trimester screening program and the first integrated first- and second-trimester screening program for fetal abnormalities.
Patients at UAB have access to the most up-to-date care, including first-trimester diagnosis, genetic testing and counseling, and 4D-ultrasound and fetal imaging. UAB’s team includes only board-certified MFM specialists as well as specialists with genetics certification. Our program also includes a personal labor nurse and three anesthesia specialists.
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