Amniotic Fluid Levels & Purpose

Amniotic Fluid Levels & Purpose

Amniotic fluid is the fluid that surrounds the fetus in the amnion.  The fluid for most of the pregnancy is made up of water from the mother, by the end of the pregnancy it is made up of the baby’s urine.  This is because the baby will swallow the amniotic fluid and then pee it out while in utero. The amniotic fluid is very important for your baby’s health.  It keeps them safe while inside of you giving them a safe environment to develop in. There can be problems though with the levels of amniotic fluid. Normal levels when looked at on an ultrasound are 5 cm to 25 cm.  The problems occur when there isn’t enough fluid or too much fluid.

The amniotic fluid does a lot in your body.  It helps protect the baby from bumps or bruises.  It contains nutrients, hormones and antibodies for the baby.  Amniotic fluid also helps with temperature control. It makes sure the baby stays warm enough.  Amniotic fluid also helps with lung and digestive function. It does this by helping the baby practice using the muscles needed to breathe and swallow the fluid.  Another thing amniotic fluid does for your baby is help with muscle and bone development. This is because it gives your baby a safe space to float around in so they can use their muscles.  Amniotic fluid provides lubrication around your baby. This is particularly important in between fingers and toes to prevent webbing. Not only does it protect your baby, but amniotic fluid also helps make sure that the umbilical cord, that provides your baby with oxygen and nutrition, doesn’t become compressed.  

When your water breaks this is a sure sign that labor is imminent.  What is really happening when your water breaks is that the amniotic sac is breaking and the amniotic fluid then is released through your cervix and vagina.  This usually means true labor is starting. Not everyone has their water break though. Some people can go through true labor for hours with their water never breaking.  Once at the hospital though your doctor will be able to help assist in breaking your water if labor is truly happening.

Oligohydramnios is when there isn’t enough amniotic fluid.  Your fluid levels are too low. Measuring below 5 cm on an ultrasound.  This only occurs in about 4% of all pregnancies. So it isn’t very common.  There are a lot of different things that can cause this to happen. The main one being there is a tear in the amniotic sac.  Another reason could be high blood pressure. Some other preexisting conditions that can decrease the amniotic fluid amount are diabetes, lupus, or preeclampsia.  If you have had a previous pregnancy with growth restrictions, meaning your baby wasn’t growing at the rate it should have been then you could be at a higher risk of having low amniotic fluid amounts.  Having a pregnancy of multiples, whether that twins or triplets can lower the amount of amniotic fluid as well. If your baby shows signs of birth defects can also cause low levels. Delivering past your due date is another factor.  <