BSIP, LAURENT / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY BSIP, LAURENT / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Amniocentesis. Obstetrician performing an amniocentesis test on a pregnant woman. In this procedure, a syringe (centre) is used to extract a small amount of amniotic fluid from the membranous sac that surrounds the foetus in the uterus. An ultrasound scanner (lower centre) is used to work out where to puncture the womb, avoiding damage to the foetus. Foetal cells in the amniotic fluid can be screened for chromosomal or genetic disorders, such as Down's syndrome. The test is usually performed between 12 and 18 weeks of pregnancy, but due to the associated risks, it is only recommended for women where the chance of a foetal disorder is high.
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