Understanding Why Your Surrogate May Need a Late Amniocentesis Test

What is an amniocentesis and when is it necessary?

An amniocentesis is completed as part of a diagnostic screening to evaluate the risk of a fetus having chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome. Typically, it is only ordered following a poor or inconclusive test result on a triple test, NT scan, or other non-invasive diagnostic test .  In some cases, as a precaution, an amniocentesis may be performed electively.

During an amniocentesis test, amniotic fluid is removed from the uterus for testing. The purpose of this procedure depends on your surrogate’s stage of pregnancy. Typically, this test is known for taking place between the 18th and 20th week of gestation to identify potential genetic disorders, neuro-tube defects and chromosomal abnormalities. For most intended parents and surrogates, this will be the only time they will think about an amniocentesis test. However, there are otherreasons a surrogate may need the test later in her pregnancy.

Reasons for a Late Amniocentesis Test

  1. To detect a uterine infection after a premature rupture of the membranes (if your surrogate’s water broke too early, or there is a small tear causing amniotic fluid to leak).
  2. To diagnose fetal anemia in the instance of a fetus with Rh disease. In some cases, fetal anemia is a life-threatening condition that requires a fetal blood transfusion.
  3. To evaluate lung maturity preceding a premature delivery.

While risks of the test include leaking amniotic fluid and needle injury, these are rare. Overall, the test analysis provides valuable information for doctors to determine the best treatment for your surrogate.

What to Expect From an Amniocentesis Test

The test is identical no matter the timing. A doctor will use an abdominal ultrasound to guide a long needle into your surrogate’s uterus to extract some amniotic fluid. All care will be taken to not touch the baby with the needle. The entire process takes about 45 minutes and may cause slight discomfort to your surrogate.

The follow-up and recovery of a late amniocentesis is similar to that of one performed in the second trimester. Your surrogate may experience some leaking, discomfort at the needle injection site and general tenderness. However, doctors consider the procedure safer at this later stage of pregnancy. If a doctor suggests a third-trimester amniocentesis, you will need to consult with your case specialist and your surrogate’s doctor right away. In most cases, it is not advisable to decline the test at this stage.

Read about other tests performed in the third trimester.

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 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 book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019) as well as the children's book You Began as a Wish (Independent Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. She has two adult daughters.