Amniocentesis Pros and Cons
The amniocentesis can be used in early pregnancy to detect genetic defects in the fetus due to chromosomal abnormalities (like Down syndrome), sex-linked defects (like hemophilia), neural tube defects (like spina bifida), inborn errors of metabolism (like cystic fibrosis), and enzyme deficiencies (like Tay-Sachs disease). Indications for genetic amniocentesis include advanced maternal age, previous child born with a chromosomal abnormality, parent carrying a chromosomal abnormality, and family history of neural tube defects.
The amniocentesis can be used in determining Rh problems, in estimating fetal maturity, and in taking the L/S (lecithin/sphingomyelin) ratio, which measures surfactant levels in the fetal lung.
The amniocentesis can also be used therapeutically to relieve hydramnios (excessive amount of amniotic fluid) and to give an intrauterine transfusion.
Complications are rare but some can be serious. The placenta, fetus, or umbilical cord may be punctured inadvertently, causing injuries ranging from minor scratches of fetal parts to intrauterine hemorrhage, leading to fetal distress and intrauterine fetal death. Placental perforation could result in hemorrhage from the fetal circulation, which could lead to fetal anemia or to increased sensitization of a Rh negative mother. Other hazards include induction of preterm labor and intraamniotic infection.