Preparing for Amniocentesis

From the 15th to about the 20th week of your pregnancy you may be offered an amniocentesis test if there is reason to believe your unborn baby is at risk of having a chromosomal disorder that would affect their quality of life. This is typically where you have a family history of certain genetic illnesses, are over 35 and therefore your unborn baby is at a higher risk of such a condition, or have had a previous child with a condition like Down’s Syndrome

This article details some of the steps you can take to get ready for your amniocentesis if both you and your doctor have agreed that the benefits of the test far outweigh any potential risks.

Mentally preparing for the test

A lot of the preparation you can undertake for amniocentesis will be psychological, as the test can reveal that your unborn baby is healthy or will suffer from a disabling condition. That being said amniocentesis only tests for a relatively small number of conditions, which is a fact you should be aware of.

If your test results indicate a chromosomal abnormality leading to anyone of a number of different lifelong conditions, then you will face a number of difficult choices ahead, and as such considering how you feel about your options prior to the test is a good way to prepare for it. That being said you should be wary of stressing too much about the result and planning for the worst as this can be detrimental to your mental health, although this is an understandably fine line to walk.

A result indicating a condition like Down’s means you have two options. The first is to have an abortion, and the second is having the baby in an environment where the best care for his or her particular condition can be provided. Both are difficult decisions for which you will have the support of your antenatal care. Discussing these options with your partner can also be a useful step, and you also have the option of talking to a trained genetic counsellor as well. Genetic counsellors specialise in providing support for this kind of situation, and so can be particularly helpful.

Understanding amniocentesis and providing consent

If you are going to undergo an amniocentesis test, then a critical part of getting ready for the procedure is having your doctor or midwife explain the ins and outs of the procedure, any potential risks, and what you can expect as you recover. You are entitled to ask any questions you may have about any part of the procedure, the results, and the recovery, and only when you feel you understand the test and what is involved are you given a consent form to sign. Consent is an important part of modern medical practice, and can only be given when you completely understand what you are being asked to consent to.

Unlike many other procedures getting ready for amniocentesis doesn’t involve special dietary restrictions or behaviours. The preparation for this test is more about understanding what it is the test can do, and getting ready to deal with the results, whatever they may be.

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