A diagnostic procedure for detecting abnormalities of the FETUS. Usually carried out between the 16th and 18th week of pregnancy, amniocentesis is performed by piercing the amniotic sac in the pregnant UTERUS with a hollow needle and withdrawing a sample of AMNIOTIC FLUID for laboratory analysis. As well as checking for the presence of abnormal fetal cells, the procedure can show the sex of the fetus. The risk of early rupture of the fetal membranes or of miscarriage is low (around 0.5 per cent).
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