Amniocentesis or Amniotic Fluid Test (AFT) is a diagnostic tool used to detect chromosomal abnormalities in a fetus, before birth. Amniocentesis is best performed between the 15th to 18th week of pregnancy. This procedure involves inserting a needle through the abdomen and the uterus to the amniotic sac. This sac contains the amniotic fluid, a rich source of fetal tissue. The fluid is collected and the cells are separated and cultured in a medium. The cells from the culture are then fixed and studied under the microscope to check for any chromosomal aberrations.
Amniocentesis is used to diagnose genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome, Edwards Syndrome, Turner Syndrome, Fragile X and many more. However, there are regulatory and ethical concerns about this procedure because it can also be used for prenatal sex determination of the fetus, which is prohibited in many countries such as the UK.
There are also some risks associated with amniocentesis. If the procedure is not performed correctly, it can lead to miscarriage; though the risk has been identified to be only 0.08% to 2.5%. Other risks include rupturing of the fetal blood vessel and injury to the fetal skin or placenta. If the procedure is not performed well, it can also lead to other complications such as the Rh factor incompatibility.
It has been found that the probability of inherited congenital metabolic disorders increases with age, and hence it is very important for women above 35 years to undergo amniocentesis. However, it is also essential that the doctor clearly briefs the couple on the risks and benefits of the procedure, so that the couple is able to decide if they would like to go ahead with this or not.
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