Amniocentesis refers to a procedure performed to remove the amniotic fluid after the 15th week of pregnancy and is one of the methods of fetal examination. Amniocentesis is done by drawing the amniotic fluid using a needle with ultrasound visualization to avoid injury to the fetus. According to Du Plessis (2007), the amniotic fluid is drawn for: genetic testing, and screening for neural tube defects; fetal hemolytic disease; examination of source of intra-amniotic infections; the evaluation of fetal kidney development and to determine fetal lung maturity (p.3).
The process of amniocentesis has its risks and benefits as well. In reference to Gilbert (2007), the risks associated with amniocentesis include: trauma to the fetus or the placenta; spontaneous abortion; pre term labor; bleeding; maternal infection and Rhesus factor sensitization from fetal bleed into maternal side of circulation (p.93). Fetal loss and the risk of talipes equinovarus are the major risks associated with early amniocentesis. Early amniocentesis is aimed at screening for genetic defects; however, amniocentesis after the 20th week of gestation is for the purposes of monitoring the lung maturity of the fetus. The benefits of amniocentesis are that it is safe and the results of the tests are reliable, and if the fetus is found to have genetic defects, the mother is appropriately given genetic counseling and is as well prepared for the birth alongside the medical team.
A mother from a family that has historical abnormalities, amniocentesis, being the most comprehensive fetal diagnostic technique is the most appropriate. Amniocentesis has been used widely since the 1970s because it was found to be relatively safe and the chromosome analysis was ascertained to be reliable. Ascertaining the genetic wellness of the fetus early is important for the mother so that any complications, if present can be treated. According to Haddow et al. (1994), Pregnant Women of 35 years of age or older are offered routine amniocentesis because they have a higher risk of fetal Down's syndrome. At this age the benefits outweigh the risks involved. Additionally, a mother with health children is usually less anxious when going to be tested using this method. In conclusion, amniocentesis, with the associated minimal risks, continues to be used in fetal analysis due to the fact that it is relatively safe and reliable.