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An amniocentesis test is a procedure where a doctor takes a small sample of amniotic fluid from your uterus. It helps find certain birth defects.

What is amniocentesis?

Amniocentesis tests your amniotic fluid — the fluid that surrounds and protects the fetus inside your uterus. Cells from the fetus that float in the fluid can be examined for chromosomal defects, like Down syndrome. The fluid can also be tested for neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.

The test results are usually ready within a few weeks. They are more than 99 percent accurate in spotting chromosome defects, such as Down syndrome. They also detect nearly all open neural tube defects.

Amniocentesis is usually done between your 15th and 20th weeks of pregnancy.

Your doctor may recommend amniocentesis if:

  • you’re 35 years old or older

  • your multiple marker screening shows that you need more testing

  • you have a family history that increases the risk of certain birth defects or other disorders

  • you’ve had a child with a major birth defect

Amniocentesis is usually painless and safe. But there is a small risk of miscarriage after amniocentesis. Fewer than one out of 100 women who have it will have a miscarriage. You get to decide which, if any, genetic tests you want to have done.

How is amniocentesis done?

You’ll have your amniocentesis at your doctor’s office. Your doctor puts a long, thin needle through your belly and into your uterus and takes out a small sample of fluid. They look at an ultrasound to help guide the needle.

Amniocentesis usually doesn’t hurt. Most people say they have a little discomfort or no pain at all.

How much does an amniocentesis cost?

The cost of an amniocentesis procedure depends on where you get it and whether you have insurance. Many insurance plans cover at least some of the cost of an amniocentesis, but check with your insurance company to be sure.

If you don’t have insurance or your plan doesn’t cover amniocentesis, you’ll have to pay for it yourself. Your doctor’s office can give you more info about how much an amniocentesis costs, and what type of payment plans they have.