Recovering from Amniocentesis

One of the most important parts of any medical procedure is recovery, and this is especially during pregnancy, when restoring your body to health quickly and safely is the best way to ensure your future health and that of your unborn child. Generally speaking invasive procedures (which involve making an opening to gain access to the body) are avoided whenever possible during a pregnancy, as the risks of infection and injury, however small, need to be far outweighed by the potential value of any procedure. In instances where there is a family history of life long and disabling chromosomal disease, certain tests are sometimes offered to determine the genetic health of a foetus (unborn child). One such test is amniocentesis, which is performed more frequently now than it has been in the past. This article briefly describes the process of amniocentesis, and then goes into more detail about the recovery phase after the test has been performed.

Amniocentesis in brief

This test is usually performed after the 15th week of a pregnancy and before the 20th, although there can be some variation in this. If testing is needed before the 15th week then there is the option of CVS (chorionic villus sampling), a sister technique with similar aims. During amniocentesis a specially designed sterile needle is used to pierce the abdomen (stomach) and access the womb. Your unborn child is surrounded by a protective fluid called amniotic fluid, which also has some cells from the foetus. Amniocentesis relies on the extraction of a relatively small volume of amniotic fluid for a genetic test called prenatal genetic diagnosis. Prenatal genetic diagnosis is usually performed in a specialised lab, and allows for the detection of major conditions like Down’s Syndrome and Rhesus Disease.

The procedure itself has been refined over the years and is now very safe and effective. It allows parents with a substantial risk of having a child with a disabling illness a chance to determine the health of their unborn baby and then make an informed choice about how to proceed with the pregnancy with the best interests of the child and family as a whole in mind.

Effects of amniocentesis and recovery

There are some minor risks involved in amniocentesis which, while unlikely, make doctors cautious when it comes to recommending the procedure to couples. There is a small risk of infection via accidental injury to the colon for example, and in the event of any of these side effects your recovery will be affected. If you do suffer from a complication of amniocentesis, then your doctor will take the appropriate steps to treat you as quickly as possible by, for example, administering antibiotics.

In terms of your body’s recovery from amniocentesis if all goes well, the small puncture made by the needle as it passes through the abdomen and into the womb usually heals between 1 and 2 days after it is made. The amniotic fluid which surrounds the foetus is surrounded by a structure which contains the fluid and protects the baby, this is called the amniotic sac or amnion. The perforation made in this membrane by amniocentesis is able to heal very quickly, and in many cases is repaired as quickly as 24 hours after the procedure.

About 20ml of amniotic fluid can be extracted for amniocentesis, and this is quickly replaced one or two days after the procedure has been performed. How quickly this lost volume of fluid is restored is partially dependent on how quickly the amnion is repaired, so the two processes are closely linked.

To ensure the speedy healing of the protective amnion a very small and carefully sterilised is used and guided by ultrasound imaging to make the procedure as safe as possible.

Amniocentesis usually has very mild side effects which are resolved within a few hours. These include light bleeding from the vagina which you may hear referred to as spotting. You can also experience cramping in the stomach area, which is likely to feel very similar to period pain. It is important to note that these effects should usually resolve themselves within a few hours of treatment, and you should feel pretty much normal by the next day.

If side effects for much longer than a day or two then you should contact your doctor straight away. If you experience any more severe side effects then you should report these immediately. These include heavier bleeding, a sense of weakness and shivering, and painful abdominal contractions.

Tips for recovering from amniocentesis

The best thing you can to recover from this procedure is make sure you are eating and drinking healthily, giving your body the nutrition it needs to recover as quickly as possible. Again it’s important that you report any abnormal sensations or side effects to your doctor straightaway.

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