What Intended Parents Should Know About Amniocentesis

One thing we will ask you to consider in the early stages of your surrogacy with Growing Generations is your opinion on an amniocentesis procedure. This is just one of many new vocabulary words you’re likely learning, and you may feel unsure about what it is or how you should feel about it.

What is Amniocentesis?

An amniocentesis, or “amnio” for short, is an invasive diagnostic test that allows doctors to screen for potential genetic disorders, neuro-tube defects, and chromosomal abnormalities. The test most commonly screens for Down syndrome, spina bifida, and Trisomy 18 or 21, and it can also identify paternity before birth. Conditions such as sickle-cell disease, Tay-Sachs, cystic fibrosis, and nearly 100 others also can be detected.

Should My Surrogate Have the Test? What Is It like?

The test is typically ordered after a poor result from non-invasive testing. Non-invasive tests generally consist of either a neuro translucency (NT) scan or a triple test and are generally conducted between 11-13 weeks of gestation. If doctors recommend it, an amniocentesis is typically completed between the 11-20 week of pregnancy.

An amniocentesis test takes roughly 45 minutes to complete and is often done in a doctor’s office. Using an ultrasound, the doctor guides a long needle into a woman’s abdomen passing through her uterine wall and into the gestational sac. Ultrasound monitoring keeps the needle from touching the developing baby. Once the needle is in place, the doctor extracts a small amount of fluid containing cells shed by the fetus. Those cells are examined in a laboratory to check for any potential disorders. Results can be received within a matter of days to a few weeks.

An amniocentesis usually does not cause the gestational carrier much pain or discomfort. She may only feel a piercing pain when the needle breaks the skin or again when it penetrates the uterus. Following the procedure, she may experience irritation at the puncture site. Later, there may be a leaking of fluid or mild cramping. The most extreme potential side effect is a miscarriage which happens less than 0.01% of the time.

Results & Implications

Some intended parents elect to have this procedure completed to gain a better understanding of the health of their developing baby. In some cases, intended parents may elect to terminate a pregnancy if the child has severe chromosomal abnormalities or other conditions that would make a live birth or full-term pregnancy unlikely. In other cases, intended parents may know that the outcome would not cause them to terminate, but they complete the test to have time to prepare and get additional support for a child with special needs.

Due to the weight of these decisions, we ask our intended parents and surrogates to thoughtfully consider and discuss what it would mean to have an amniocentesis well before entering into pregnancy. We ask you to think about how you will respond to the results of an amniocentesis. These are issues that you’ll discuss in the matching and legal phases of your surrogacy.

We understand that these are not small things to consider and that you may have questions. If you need to talk with Dr. Kim Bergman or another member of the Fertility Counseling Services (FCS) team about this, just let your Admissions or Case Specialist know.

If you have any additional questions, click here to contact us.

Dr. Kim Bergman

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 26 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for Intended Parents, Surrogates and Donors. She is the co-owner of Fertility Counseling Services and Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national Emeritus board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman’s is the author of the upcoming book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. Her two daughters are in college.