Latest studies confirm that early amniocentesis the prenatal test for Down's syndrome can increase the risk of miscarriage and incidence of babies born with club foot. Earlier studies report a high percentage of foetal loss, limb malformation and certain blood and respiratory diseases. Three years ago, Dutch researchers considered early amniocentesis so dangerous that they abandoned their trials.
In this study, Canadian researchers looked at over 4000 pregnant women. Almost half had amniocentesis before 13 weeks and just over half after 15 weeks. Early amniocentesis showed a 7.6 per cent foetal loss, compared with 5.9 per cent in the midtrimester group. Results also reveal a marked increase in club foot in the early amniocentesis group (1.3 per cent), compared with the midtrimester (0.1 per cent) amniocentesis group. More than 30,000 amniocentesis procedures are carried out in the UK each year, mostly at 15 weeks (The Lancet, 1998; 351: 242-247).