The day I turned 16 weeks (May 23rd), I woke up with sweaty palms and a racing heart. My anxiety was real and the thought of the risk factors involved in an amnio weighed heavily on my mind. Kyle and I made it to our appointment and spoke once again with the genetic counselor about the procedure, risk factors, and what would come after. We signed some papers and then got prepped for the procedure.
It started with a scan that measured amniotic fluid around the baby, looked at the placenta, and the placement of my organs around the uterus as well as began monitoring the baby’s heart rate. I have an anterior placenta, which means it’s in the front, so the doctor wanted to try her best to avoid going through the placenta. The doctor worked closely with the sonographer (once again, is thankfully one of my friends) to find a safe spot to enter the uterus and extract enough amniotic fluid from around the baby. Although I’ve been told my “petite-ness” is beneficial for ultrasounds, it seemed to be the opposite for this procedure. Since I am petite, all of my organs were so closely crowded around my uterus that it was difficult to find a spot to enter the uterus without the potential risk of obstructing one of my internal organs. So, that was cool. More sweat. More panic.
They found a tiny opening to enter through that would miss all of my organs, the placenta, and the baby. When I say tiny, it seriously looked like a centimeter of space. I could be wrong with the measurement, but that’s what it looked like to me. They cleaned the surface of my skin with what looked like spray-tan gone bad liquid and asked if I was ready. Mind you, they can’t numb the area or anything like that because they are going into the uterus and that could potentially harm the baby. So I took a deep breath and watched the screen above me as the very long, but skinny needle went straight into my tummy.
Before entering the uterus, it’s important to locate the needle on the ultrasound machine to make sure it is in the exact spot they want it. Unfortunately, this task was very difficult. They had a hard time locating the needle, which involved the doctor carefully moving the needle around from side to side while it was in my tummy, but just outside the uterus. The doctor eventually removed the needle and went back into my skin in a very close, but different spot in hopes to detect the needle on the ultrasound machine. This time, they (and I) could see it on the screen. The doctor prepared to stick the needle into my uterus by having me take a deep breath. It was in. She began slowly extracting amniotic fluid while her and the sonographer monitored the baby’s heart rate (for distress) and the baby herself.
Everything was looking good and going well until all of a sudden the doctor couldn’t get any more fluid. She was turning the needle nearly sideways to try and get more, but it wasn’t happening. Kyle and I noticed the facial expressions on everyone in the room and I remember the songrapher looked at me and said, “just breathe.” I tried focusing on my breath and relaxing my body to make this situation easier. The doctor measured the amount of fluid she had already gotten and it was only ½ the amount needed to perform the proper tests. She gave me the option of just stopping and sending in what we already have and hoping for the best (with the possibility of scheduling another amnio and redoing the whole process) or removing the needle and finding another spot to enter the uterus.
I wanted nothing more than to tell her to just stop. The pain, the nerves, and the fear were at an all time high right in that moment, but I knew that would be stupid. I told her to go forward with finding another spot and getting the necessary amount. This meant that she was now puncturing the uterus two different times instead of one, so I asked if it’s more dangerous and puts me at a higher risk for miscarriage. I don’t remember the exact answer, but from what I remember it sounded like the risk was still the same. So we did it again.
The doctor and sonographer found another spot and went back in. Same process as before. But it was successful; she was able to retrieve enough amniotic fluid to send to the lab. I’ve never been more relieved to have something over and done with in my life. A typical 10-minute procedure lasted about 45 minutes for me. Go figure. They cleaned the blood and “bad spray-tan” stuff off my stomach and had me lie still for a bit before getting up. After that, I was taken to get my bloodwork done as well. When they send the sample off, they need to make sure they are using the baby’s cells and not mine, so they use my blood to compare. Then, I was sent home and headed straight to bed to nap off the stress.
So, what next?
The amniotic fluid was extracted because it contains Baby K’s skin cells. Once the fluid is sent off to the lab, they use the skin cells from the fluid and grow them in a petri dish. In order to look at chromosomes, there has to be a source, so this is it. Once the skin cells grow enough for them to analyze the chromosomes, they line up all 23 chromosomes in order to see if they are all there and the genetic makeup is “normal.” Each chromosome is made up of several genes. These genes are also telling factors when it comes to chromosomal or genetic conditions, so they line up all the genes within each chromosome and see if they are “normal,” as well. This tests for all sorts of chromosomal and genetic conditions or syndromes that could be causing the cystic hygroma.
This process should take about 3 weeks (yup, another LONG waiting game), to get results.
Depending on those findings, we may opt in to get a more detailed DNA test that tests for other conditions and syndromes that wouldn’t necessarily be present in a chromosomal/genetic diagnostic test because they only impact DNA. This test would only be performed if everything from the chromosomal and genetic diagnostic test came back negative and normal.
Yes, science is INSANELY MIND BLOWING. There’s your quick science lesson for the day (mind you, I am not a doctor and this is my interpretation of what I was told by the genetic counselor).
“Did it hurt?”
Honestly, it was the strangest pain I had ever felt. I knew it hurt because I nearly broke Kyle’s thumb off his hand at the beginning of the procedure, but it wasn’t like a pain I had ever felt. It was weird and different. The actual needle didn’t hurt because although it is so long and scary looking, it’s so super thin, but once it was in my skin is when it hurt. The extraction of the fluid felt tingly and irritating, but not painful. I did have a little bit of cramping afterward, which is normal (but still scary). What I’m trying to say is that it is hard to explain and more of a weird pain than a hurtful pain…if that makes sense?
How do you know you’re “in the clear” of the risks?
After the procedure, there is a typical 72-hour risk period, I guess you could say. Usually, if any of those scary risk factors are for certain, you would experience them within the first 72 hours of the procedure. I made sure I was extra cautious and careful with anything and everything I did those next few days. And once again, it was all about the waiting process…