Why Would you be Doing an Amniocentesis?
Amniocentesis is a medical procedure performed on a pregnant woman to withdraw a small amount of amniotic fluid from the sac surrounding the foetus. By about the 16th week of pregnancy, the developing baby is suspended in around 130ml of amniotic fluid, which the baby constantly swallows and excretes. The goal of amniocentesis is to examine a tiny amount of this fluid to obtain information about the baby - including its sex - and to detect physical abnormalities such as Down's syndrome or spina bifida. Amniocentesis is only performed on women thought to be at higher risk of delivering a child with a birth defect.
What You Can Expect
I got talked into having a nuchal test, when I was 12 weeks pregnant. I didn’t want to, but the midwife looked up at me and said, “If I were your age, I would do it.” I was thirty-frickin-five, but you’d think I was 90, the way she carried on. So I did it, and the initial scan looked fine. I thought nothing more of it.
I had done IVF/ICSI to get pregnant, due to my husband having a vasectomy after the birth of our first child. This was a long pined for, long awaited for, pregnancy. I had JUST started to get happy about it when the phone rang a few days after my nuchal …..
1 in 173 chance my baby had Downs Syndrome.
My bloodwork alone came back at 1 in 30 chance. I tried to not let it worry me, but it WORRIED ME. I had to wait a few weeks, to do an amnio. I knew I had to do an amnio, because I could not panic like this for the rest of my pregnancy. I was so so petrified of the actual procedure, the needle puncturing the sac. It was wrong. Sometimes, we have TOO many tests available to us. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
I took a friend down with me, to hold my hand. She had gone to the same doctor for her amnio a year before. Her baby was in the pram, and gave me hope that all might turn out ok. The doctor had a thick Scottish accent and called me “lass”, in such a tender way that it killed me. The doctor likened doing an amnio procedure to “trying to stab a fish in a bucket with a blunt stick”. I found this disturbing, until I realised he was trying to reassure me that it doesn’t hurt the baby … the needle won’t poke it.
It was awful, but over very quickly. It took two tries, as he had to get enough fluid for the test. Some women I spoke to beforehand didn’t bat an eye about doing an amnio, some had huge concerns, like me. The needlemark in the amniotic sac closes over and heals, we would have definitive results, and all shall be well in the world. I limped around, so scared of miscarrying until about a week afterwards.
I paid a couple of hundred bucks to get the results fast-tracked and the doctor rang me back the next day, telling me that everything was fine with the baby and there were no signs of Down’s Syndrome. As soon as he said this, I realised I had known this all along, but I had gone against my instincts and got a bit bullied into tests and procedures I didn’t really want to do. I was angry for a long time, which was useless really. The baby was fine and that was the most important thing.
I urge anyone to trust their own instincts. It’s hard to say if I would have my nuchal test over again. If anyone is reading this and facing their own decision about whether to have an amnio, only you can decide. It was a great feeling, to know that the baby was fine, but it caused me a lot of angst. If the baby had Down’s syndrome, I would want to know. I might have chosen to not go ahead with the pregnancy, I might not have. I’ll never know.
Take someone with you during the procedure, as it’s not a good idea to drive afterwards. Talk to other women who have had an amnio. Try to go home and go straight to bed.
All the numbers and odds and statistics can be quite confusing. Remember that you – and your baby, are more than a number. Before the baby was born, my husband got diagnosed with cancer, a mass of extremely aggressive tumours were found in his stomach, courtesy of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He had to go through six months of intensive, soul-destroying chemotherapy. He is now in remission. His chances of the cancer coming back is 1 in 4. We think those odds are fantastic.