BSIP LAURENT / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY BSIP LAURENT / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Amniocentesis. A doctor performs an amniocentesis test on a pregnant woman. In this procedure a small amount of amniotic fluid is drawn through a needle from the amniotic sac - the membraneous bag that surrounds the foetus in the uterus. Foetal cells in the fluid can be screened for chromosomal abnormalities such as Down's syndrome, or genetic disorders such as haemophilia and cystic fibrosis. The test is usually performed between the 16th and 18th week of pregnancy and an anaesthesic is not required. Because of the risks associated with this test, amniocentesis is only recommended for women over the age of 35, or when there is a family history of a particular disorder.
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