Amniocentesis,before the actual procedure, a local anesthetic is sometimes given to relieve the pain when inserting the needle used to withdraw the fluid. A needle is usually inserted through the mother's abdominal wall or at the end of the vagina, and through the wall of the uterus into the amniotic sac. With assistance from ultrasound, a physician aims towards an area of the sac that is away from the fetus and extracts a small amount of amniotic fluid for testing. The puncture heals, and the amniotic sac replenishes the liquid over a day or so. After the amniotic fluid is extracted, the fetal cells are separated from it using a centrifuge, and the fetal chromosomes are examined for abnormalities. Various genetic testing may be performed, but the three most common abnormalities tested for are Down's syndrome, Trisomy 18 and spina bifida. Amniocentesis can be performed as soon as sufficient amniotic fluid surrounds the fetus to allow a sample to be recovered relatively safely, usually no earlier than the 14th week of pregnancy. Often, genetic counseling is offered in conjunction with amniocentesis.