Document View > Alpha-1-Fetoprotein measurement, amniotic fluid

Alpha-1-Fetoprotein measurement, amniotic fluid

Alpha-1-Fetoprotein measurement, amniotic fluid

Alpha-1-Fetoprotein measurement, amniotic fluid


What is this test?

This test measures alpha-fetoprotein in amniotic fluid. It is used to assess an unborn baby for neural tube defects, including spina bifida.

Why do I need this test?

Laboratory tests may be done for many reasons. Tests are performed for routine health screenings or if a disease or toxicity is suspected. Lab tests may be used to determine if a medical condition is improving or worsening. Lab tests may also be used to measure the success or failure of a medication or treatment plan. Lab tests may be ordered for professional or legal reasons. You may need this test if you have:

  • Neural tube defect

How should I get ready for the test?

An amniocentesis is a procedure that requires your written consent. Review the consent form with the healthcare worker and ask any questions that you have before signing the consent form. Tell the person doing the amniocentesis if you have a history of pregnancy difficulties, such as premature (early) labor, incompetent cervix (a weak or failing cervix), placenta previa (a placenta that is abnormally low, near or over the cervix), abruptio placentae (the placenta is separated from the uterine wall too early), and if you are Rh negative (had a blood type that did not match your child's blood type). Tell the healthcare worker if you have a medical condition or are using a medication or supplement that causes excessive bleeding. You should also report if you have a history of allergic or other reactions to local anesthetics. If ultrasound is used, you will need to drink extra fluids and have a full bladder for the procedure.

How is the test done?

Amniotic fluid is the protective liquid that surrounds the unborn baby while it is in the mother’s womb. A sample of this fluid is collected by a procedure called an amniocentesis. For an amniocentesis, you will lie on your back with your legs extended. You may be asked to raise your arms above your head. Usually, an ultrasound will be done at the same time as the amniocentesis. The ultrasound is used to locate your unborn baby, the placenta, and a pocket of amniotic fluid that is suitable for testing. The point selected for needle insertion will be away from your baby and the placenta.

An area of skin on your abdomen will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution, and a sterile area prepared. You will be given anesthetic to numb your skin. When the area is numb, a needle will be introduced through your skin and into the amniotic sac (the protective sac that surrounds the unborn baby). Using ultrasound as a guide for needle placement, a small amount of amniotic fluid will be withdrawn and thrown away, and then the sample of fluid will be collected.

When enough fluid has been collected, the needle will be withdrawn. More than one needle and syringe may be needed to collect the sample. If your unborn baby moves toward the needle during the procedure, the needle will be withdrawn and the procedure may need to be repeated.

How will the test feel?

The amount of discomfort you feel will depend on many factors, including your sensitivity to pain. Communicate how you are feeling with the person doing the procedure. Inform the person doing the procedure if you feel that you cannot continue with the procedure.

Before an amniocentesis, a local anesthetic is given to the procedure site to numb the area. You may feel mild discomfort or stinging when the numbing medicine is injected. As the procedure needle is inserted through the abdomen, you may feel some discomfort and pressure. You may feel mild cramping in your abdomen and pelvic area during the procedure. The procedure site may be sore for several days.

What should I do after the test?

After an amniocentesis, a bandage will be placed over the site, and pressure applied until the bleeding or drainage has stopped. Rest is necessary. Do not have sexual intercourse, and avoid heavy lifting for at least 24 hours after the procedure.

Contact your healthcare worker if there is redness, swelling, pus, drainage, or pain at the site where the amniotic fluid sample was taken. Alert your healthcare worker immediately if you see bleeding or clear fluid leaking from your vagina, feel severe cramping in your abdominal or pelvic area, or develop a fever. Inform healthcare workers of any change in your baby's movement, such as not moving for a period of time, or suddenly moving more than usual after this procedure.


You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.