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Amniocentesis is the process of obtaining a sample of amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus by puncturing the abdomen of a pregnant woman with a very fine, hollow needle.

Cells and other substances shed by the fetus into the fluid are used for diagnosing various abnormalities, such as Down's Syndrome.

Amniocentesis can also be used to determine the gender of a baby 95% of the time.


The New American Desk Encyclopedia, Penguin Group, 1989