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Alpha Fetoprotein Amniotic

Submitted on March 27, 2012

Amniotic fluid is the fluid present in the amniotic sac that protects an unborn baby in the womb from sudden jerks or trauma by acting as a cushion. It is the clear, slightly yellowish liquid on which an unborn baby depends solely for its nourishment. The amniotic fluid is also essential for fetal movement and normal development of the fetus. The alpha-fetoprotein is a protein present in the amniotic fluid that proves to be very helpful in establishing the health status of the fetus.

Why Alpha Fetoprotein Amniotic is done

Sometimes, a fetus may be abnormal or may have some neural tube defect. Alpha fetoprotein amniotic testing proves beneficial in determining these defects or abnormalities before the baby is born itself. The alpha fetoprotein levels are usually high when the fetus has an abdominal wall defect or neural tube defects like spina bifida and anencephaly, and is generally low when the fetus has Down’s syndrome or Trisomy 18. However, these levels are only indicative of risks of certain abnormalities and further investigation may be required to determine a defect, if any. This test helps in preparing parents to deal with the condition faced by their baby or to decide upon the next course of action.

Preparation

Before going in for the test, keeping all previous reports related to the pregnancy together is recommended. Noting down the date of the last period and the due date as calculated by your gynecologist is also essential as the level of alpha-fetoprotein depends on the gestational age of the fetus. Amniotic fluid alpha fetoprotein testing is usually done in the 16th week of pregnancy. Being relaxed and calm is also essential for the safety of your baby.

Procedure

The amniotic fluid for testing the alpha-fetoprotein levels is obtained through a process called amniocentesis. The small amount of amniotic fluid is gradually drawn out with a needle and syringe. The needle is carefully inserted through the abdomen and uterus, into the amniotic sac, usually by an experienced gynecologist. Ultrasound imaging is used to guide the direction of the needle so as to prevent fetal damage and multiple insertions. The procedure is generally painless and is normally done under local anesthesia. The sample is then sent for investigation and the results usually take around a week. At least a day’s rest following this procedure is recommended and exertion must be avoided completely to ensure the safety of the fetus.
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