Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS): About This Test

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What is it?

Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) is a test done during pregnancy. It looks for certain genetic problems with your baby (fetus). The same genes that are in your baby are in the placenta. The placenta is a large organ that forms in your uterus when you are pregnant. It supplies your baby with nutrients and oxygen through the umbilical cord. A small piece of the placenta is taken out and tested.

This test is done when you are 10 to 13 weeks pregnant.

Why is this test done?

CVS can find genetic conditions, such as Tay-Sachs disease or hemophilia. It can also find Down syndrome.

You may want to have this test because:

  • You are concerned about your baby because of your age. As you get older, you have a greater chance of having a baby with a genetic condition.
  • You've had a baby with a genetic condition.
  • You or your partner has a family history of a genetic condition.
  • You had a result from a screening test that was not normal.

How do you prepare for the test?

You may be asked to drink a glass of fluid about an hour before the test so that your bladder is full. A full bladder makes it easier to do the test.

You may want to talk to a genetic counselor before or after the test. This person is trained to give you detailed information about the test. The counselor can help you make decisions about testing. The counselor can also help you understand the results of the tests.

You will be asked to sign a consent form that says you understand the risks of the test and agree to have it done.

How is the test done?

Through the belly

There are two ways to do this test. One way is through the belly (transabdominal). The other way is through the cervix (transcervical).

  • You will lie on your back on an exam table.
  • Your belly will be cleaned with an antiseptic.
  • Your doctor will use ultrasound to guide a long, thin needle through your belly and uterus to the placenta. The needle is used to collect a sample of the chorionic villus cells.

Through the cervix

  • You will lie on your back on an exam table.
  • Your doctor will put a tool with curved sides (speculum) into your vagina.
  • Your doctor will use ultrasound to guide a thin tube (catheter) through your cervix to the placenta.

How does having chorionic villus sampling (CVS) feel?

Through the belly (transabdominal)

You may feel a short, sharp sting from the needle used to give the numbing medicine. There is usually no pain when the collecting needle is put in the belly. You may have some cramping when the needle is in your uterus.

Through the cervix (transcervical)

Most women do not find this procedure painful. You may feel some pressure or mild discomfort when the speculum is placed in your vagina. You may have some cramping when the catheter is put through your cervix.

How long does the test take?

The test will take about 30 minutes. Getting the sample takes only a few minutes.

What happens after the test?

  • You will probably be able to go home 15 to 30 minutes after the test.
  • Your doctor may ask you to avoid strenuous exercise, lifting anything heavy, and sex after the test. By the next day, you can do your normal activities, unless your doctor tells you not to.
  • You may have some cramping or vaginal spotting. This should go away within a day. You may feel some soreness where the needle was put in if you had the belly procedure done.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have cramping.
  • You have vaginal bleeding.
  • You have pain in your belly or pelvis.
  • You notice fluid coming from your vagina.
  • You have a fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.