Amniocentesis is a transabdomial aspiration of fluid from the amniotic sac of the foetus. It is a prenatal diagnostic technique to determine the genetic disorders if any in the fetus. It is also used to determine the sex of the unborn child.
The developing fetus in the uterus is surrounded by a fluid called amniotic fluid that fills the amniotic cavity. At an early stage of pregnancy, the location of the fetus and the placenta is determined by sonography. Then a small surgical syringe needle carefully so that fetus is not damaged. The fetal cells have sloughed from the fetus are sucked into the syringe. The cells can be cultured and in about fortnight enough cells become available for test. These cells are then fixed for chromosomal preparation (Karyotype). These cells can be examined for chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down’s syndrome, Klinefelter’s syndrome, Turner’s syndrome, resulting from nondisjunction during cell division. The cells and fluid are also tested for metabolic disorders such as phenylketonuria, sickle-shaped anemia, etc. If by this technique, it is established that the child is likely to get some serious congenital problems then the mother can get the fetus aborted and she will have clinical justification for abortion.
However, these days this technique has been misused also. Mothers even get their normal female fetus aborted as it can help them to detect the sex of the fetus by seeing the ‘X’ and ‘Y’ chromosome. This is equivalent to killing a normal child who is yet not born even. Therefore, determination of sex by this technique has been banned now.