Amniocentesis, or “amnio,” is a medical procedure that helps determine if a fetus has genetic or chromosomal or abnormalities. It is often done when there are genetic risks or when the parents are older.
To do an amnio, an obstetrician injects a needle into a pregnant mother’s abdomen to collect fluid from the amniotic sack that surrounds the fetus. This test is usually done between 16 and 22 weeks, and it carries a small risk of causing a miscarriage. Pregnant mothers do not look forward to having an amnio.
A new blood test will soon replace the amnio. Instead of taking fluid from the mother’s abdomen, a simple blood draw is done from her arm. And the new blood test can be done at 8 to 10 weeks instead of during the second trimester.
While the new test is being hailed as an obstetrical game changer, it is also going to present an ethical nightmare. For instance, will parents decide to abort because they don’t like the sex of a fetus or because the child will have brown hair instead of blonde?
As for the legal benefits of the new test: one of the most frequent reasons for medical malpractice lawsuits is regarding abnormalities in newborns. The new test could prove helpful for obstetricians if it could determine that the situation was going to be difficult regardless of what the physician did or didn’t do.
Precaution: The new test does not yet screen for as many issues as an amnio, and a positive response needs to be followed up by an amnio. Be sure to discuss the plusses and minuses with your healthcare provider.