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What is amniocentesis and how is it performed

This test is helpful in diagnosing birth defects such as neural tube defect (NTD), including anencephaly (failure of brain formation) and spina bifida (open spine).  A small sample of the fluid in which the baby lies is drawn off through a needle.  The test measures the amount of fetal protein both in the mother's blood as well as in the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. 

For whom is amniocentesis advised

An amniocentesis is usually advised for women in the following high risk category for birth defects: 

  • Women over 35 (since the risk of Down's syndrome is very high)
  • Women with three or more miscarriages
  • If either parent or sibling has a known chromosomal abnormality or a hereditary disease

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