We studied 693 consecutive early amniocenteses (prior to 15 weeks) and found a spontaneous abortion rate to 28 weeks' gestation of 1.5 per cent. A control group of women having standard amniocentesis (15-20 weeks) experienced a 0.6 per cent fetal loss in the same period. There were no other apparent differences between the two groups. Early amniocentesis results are generally available 4-6 weeks before standard amniocentesis and 1-3 weeks after chorionic villus sampling (CVS). Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) can be accurately assayed in 11- to 15-week amniotic fluid samples but additional studies are necessary to determine the accuracy of neural tube defect (NTD) detection. Including the present study, over 5800 early amniocenteses have been reported and the results suggest that this is a relatively safe prenatal diagnostic test and an alternative to CVS and later amniocentesis.