Culture - amniotic fluid; Culture - amniotic cells; Alpha-fetoprotein - amniocentesis

Amniocentesis is a test that can be done during pregnancy to look for certain problems in the developing baby. These problems include:

  • Birth defects
  • Genetic problems
  • Infection
  • Lung development

Amniocentesis is used to determine the health of an unborn baby. Amniotic fluid contains cells that are normally shed from the fetus. Samples of these cells are obtained by withdrawing some amniotic fluid. The chromosome analysis of these cells can be performed to determine abnormalities. In addition, the cells may be cultured and analyzed for enzymes, or for other materials that may indicate genetically transmitted diseases. Other studies can be done directly on the amniotic fluid including measurement of alpha-fetoprotein.


In amniocentesis a hollow needle is inserted into the mother's abdomen into the uterus, and amniotic fluid is drawn for analysis.

Amniocentesis - series - Indication

When you are about 15 weeks pregnant, your doctor may offer amniocentesis. Amniocentesis is a test that detects or rules out certain inherited disorders in a fetus. It also assesses lung maturity to see if the fetus can endure an early delivery. You can also find out the baby's gender. Doctors generally offer amniocentesis to women with an increased risk of having a baby with particular disorders. The procedure may be offered to women who will be 35 or older when they deliver, have a close relative with a disorder, or had a previous pregnancy or baby affected by a disorder. It may also be offered if a woman has test results (such as a high or low alpha-fetoprotein count) that may indicate an abnormality. Doctors also offer amniocentesis to women with pregnancy complications, such as Rh-incompatibility, that necessitate early delivery. There are blood tests and ultrasound tests that can be done earlier in the pregnancy which may avoid the need for amniocentesis at times.

How the Test is Performed

How to Prepare for the Test

Why the Test is Performed

Normal Results

What Abnormal Results Mean