Society is seriously a funny thing. In a day and age where 40 is the new 30 and 20 is considered an overgrown child, the fact that more and more women are putting off having kids until they are over 35 isn’t too surprising. But despite this trend for waiting to become a Mom, if you Google “Having a baby over the age of 35” you are going to come up with some seriously scary results. And among those piles of search terms, you are going to find the term amniocentesis.
Depending on your doctor and how old you are, you’ll be offered a variety of genetic testing before and during your 2nd trimester. If you opt for the Triple Screen or Multiple Marker Screen that tests for Down Syndrome and Spina Bifida amongst other issues, you might just get a good result and relax from there. But if the Triple Screen comes back badly, stating that there is a chance your child has Downs Syndrome or other potential issues, you’ll be referred for an Amnio.
When I was pregnant with my 4th child, I took the Triple Marker test without even considering there would be an issue. When it came back with a 1 in 60 chance of my child having Down Syndrome, I still wanted to avoid having an Amnio. Why? Because it didn’t matter to me one way or the other if the baby had an issue, I’d still continue with the pregnancy. However, you better believe I spent HOURS online, searching for “What’s Amniocentesis really like?” and “1 in 60 Triple Screen”, just to help me prepare for the unknown.
In the end, I had the Amnio. I was guided very gently by a wonderful doctor who wanted me to prepare, especially considering I already had 3 children and it would be more of an adjustment for my family. It really doesn’t matter why you decide to get it or not get it, but if you are in the same boat, faced with an incomplete Triple Screen or Ultrasound and are wondering what an Amniocentesis is really like, I’ll share my experience with you. It might make you feel a little better about what you’re going through.
In Canada, when you get an Amnio done, you will have it in the hospital. My first appointment at the hospital was a simple consultation (although I didn’t know this at the time and was out of my skin with stress). They discussed the procedure, told me the risks, and reviewed my test results with me. I didn’t feel any better walking out of there, and in many cases it made me feel worse. They scheduled the procedure for a week later.
The day of the procedure, I checked myself into the hospital and sat down in the waiting area. When they called my name, I walked in the room and sat down on the bed. There were several people in the room, including the doctor who would be performing the procedure and two other nurses who were manning the equipment.
I stretched out on the table, holding my tummy and waiting. They did a quick ultrasound and found the baby, although the screen was above my head so I couldn’t really see him moving around. It wasn’t one of those lighthearted ultrasounds either, it was more of a “Let’s locate him so we don’t stick him with this huge needle.”
They sanitized my tummy and asked me to lay very still. So I did, and although I barely wanted to breathe at that point, I started to cry. It’s scary to have someone performing such an invasive procedure, and its really scary to think that it could hurt the baby. The risks of Amnio are many, including preterm labor and delivery, respiratory distress, fetal trauma, and rhesus disease. And every risk they’ve told you about or you’ve read about will crowd into your head when you are waiting for it to be over.
Can you feel the needle? Not really. It does hurt to a point, but not in the way you think. It feels more like a quick sting, some pressure, and it is truly over before you know it. The needle is ultra-thin, even if it is really long, so the pain is minimal.
Once its over, you’ll be asked to relax for a bit and they’ll monitor with an ultrasound. Once you are deemed able to leave, they’ll send you off with strict instructions to not move for a minimum of 24 hours.
Before I left I asked how long it would be until I was able to receive the results, and was told it could be up to a week to 10 days. I’m not much of a waiter. I’ve been known to go slightly crazy over test results from much smaller things, and I knew I’d be a basket case for that week. Luckily, the doctor must have picked up on my half crazy vibe because he told me they could speed up the test and give me the results within 36 hours using what’s known as a FISH test.
I received my all-clear a day and a half later while walking very slowly through a WalMart, looking for Tylenol and chocolate. Despite WalMart being a complete and utter cell phone deadzone, I was able to receive the call while I was in the pastry aisle. He told me the baby did not test positive, and he also let me know with 100% accuracy that my baby was a boy.
I survived an Amnio, and you will too. 2 1/2 years later I have a very healthy, wild and crazy son, and my stress over the positive Triple Screen is a distant memory.