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My Experience with Amniocentesis

As a Surrogate Mother

When matching with the right set of Intended Parents many things are to be considered. What level of contact you prefer, how many embryos you are willing to transfer, what amount of compensation you are comfortable with and most importantly things related to your pre-natal care. One of these such things is whether or not you are willing and comfortable under going invasive procedures such as the amniocentesis.

The amniocentesis is a prenatal test that allows you and your practitioner to gather information about  the baby's health and development from a sample of your amniotic fluid. This is the fluid that surrounds your baby in the uterus. The test is most commonly done when a woman is between 15 and 20 weeks pregnant to determine whether the baby has genetic or chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down Syndrome. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of miscarriage from amniocentesis is between one in 200 and one in 400, depending on the skill and experience of the doctor performing it. You'd also have a slight risk of uterine infection in the days following the procedure (less than one in 1,000), which can sometimes lead to miscarriage. Before having your amnio, you'll have an ultrasound to measure your baby and check his basic anatomy. This may happen on the same day as the amnio or a few days or weeks beforehand.

For the amnio itself, you lie on an examining table and your belly is cleaned with alcohol or an iodine solution. A doctor or technician uses ultrasound  to pinpoint a pocket of amniotic fluid a safe distance from both the baby and the placenta. This part can take up to 20 minutes. Then, under continuous ultrasound guidance, the doctor inserts a long, thin, hollow needle through your abdominal wall and into the sac of fluid around your baby. She withdraws a small amount of amniotic fluid about an ounce, or two tablespoons and then removes the needle. Withdrawing the fluid should take less than 30 seconds.

You may feel some cramping, pinching, or pressure during the procedure or you may feel no discomfort at all. The amount of discomfort or pain varies among women and even from one pregnancy to the next. You may choose to have your abdomen numbed first with a local anesthetic, but the pain from the anesthesia injection is likely to be worse than that of the amnio itself and most women decide that one needle is enough.

As you can see this procedure should not be taken lightly and it is very important for you to be 100% comfortable with submitting to this practice and with that said I would like to share my personal experience with being a surrogate mother and undergoing an amniocentesis at the request of my intended parents.

Not only did I have one amnio I had two! When matching with my Intended Parents my point of view for invasive procedures such as amnio's, CVS and even selective reduction was that I would do whatever they asked, I had no preference either way. I felt that if the risks of these procedures was something they were comfortable with that I would not protest or refuse the idea, after all it is their baby and any outcome good or bad would fall on their shoulders and be held in their hearts. What I did not count on was the physical and emotional toll the actual process itself would take on me.

My first amnio was to be at the typical point in pregnancy to check for genetic problems. The date for the amnio was fast approaching and the reality of the whole thing started weighing heavily on me. I become very anxious and wished that I hadn't agreed to go through with it. As it turned out the amnio was delayed two different times due to bleeding and a scheduling conflict. Both times I was at the hospital ready to under go the procedure, literally on the table with OB needle in hand and it was canceled in that moment. Despite not wanting to go through with the amniocentesis at all and being grateful it was delayed it would almost have been better to get it over with immediately due to the emotional toll it took on me to prepare myself mentally each and every time to go through with the procedure.

Finally at 20 weeks I was able to complete the amnio. My Intended Mother was present  and held my hand as it was done. My first experience was a bit painful, a 5 out of 10 on the pain scale, but after the initial poke from the needle and the puncture of my uterus it was bearable. It was over in about 5 mins. I had some mild cramping immediately after but nothing to be concerned about.

The second amnio was a surprise to me at the suggestion of my OB to set an induction date. It was late in my third trimester to check for lung maturity, at 36 1/2 weeks. This experience was far different from the first. Although I was unprepared for a second amnio I wasn't as anxious going into this appointment. However I had known the level of pain it would cause I wouldn't have agreed to a second amnio at all. The procedure itself was exactly as the first time, but the initial pain from the needle piercing my skin was much more intense, as was the pain from the puncture of my uterus. After the initial "poke" I breathed a sigh of relief but that was short lived due to the fact that the baby had moved his legs onto the needle and had essential clamped down on it with his knees. I was looking away from the screen trying to focus away from the pain but once this happened I knew something wasn't right. I told the OB that the baby had moved and glanced at the screen, sure enough the space of black fluid on the ultrasounds monitor was now filled with white images of knees and legs. The OB confirmed what I thought and said the baby was kicking at the needle but it would be okay, he wouldn't be hurt. I was nearly in tears at this point, gripping hard on my Intended Mothers hand and pleading with the OB to hurry because it hurt badly. This time it was an 8 out of 10 on the pain scale and much more painful than the first. I was told it was over and expected relief once the needle was removed from my abdomen however it wasn't immediate, it took several minutes for the pain to subside.

As it turned out the second amniocentesis was all for nothing because the lung maturity came back negative. It was a devastating blow to find out that I had endured such pain and anxiety and it didn't matter. I know now that I never want to experience such a thing again. Had I truly considered the possibility of such an experience I would have never agreed to go through it in the first place. Unfortunately sometimes we get caught in the "It'll never happen to me" mentality, my opinion on invasive procedures was based on the idea that I probably wouldn't have to do it, why say no in advance and potentially argue about an issue that wouldn't come up during the pregnancy. I for one can say yes it can happen and it did happen to me.

Remember though, everyone can have a different experience due to different circumstances, pain tolerance, profession skill, etc. Just because my personal experience was one to not repeat does not mean that everyone will have the same ordeal. Keep in mind your own personal beliefs, feelings and ideals when considering how this possibility may will affect you.

Written by Alicia~in~MI

Independent Gestational Surrogate to Boy/Girl Twins 2003

Agency Faciliated Gestational Surrogate to Boy 2006

Clinic Matched Egg Donor 2004

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