The Highs and Lows of Amniotic Fluid

Just Floating Along

The sac of waters, or the amniotic sac, is vital to your baby's existence in the womb. It is his life support system and has several important functions.

· If you slip and fall, the amniotic fluid cushions the baby to protect him.

· It stops the umbilical cord from compressing, reducing the baby's oxygen and nutrient supply.

· It helps to keep the temperature in the womb constant.

· It protects the baby from infection.

· It provides an environment that allows for easy movement so the baby's muscles and bones develop properly.

· It helps the digestive system and the respiratory system to develop through the baby's swallowing and breathing the fluid in and out.

How Does the Fluid Form?

The amniotic sac is formed within two weeks of conception and the fluid comes in soon after. For the first weeks and months it is comprised of water and fluid from you, and then at about 20 weeks the primary substance in the sac is the baby's urine produced as the baby starts swallowing the fluid.

It passes through his kidneys and is excreted as urine, which he swallows again - and so it goes.

The levels of amniotic fluid constantly increase until about 32 weeks gestation, then they level off. Sometimes the levels of fluid are too high and sometimes they are too low.

Normal levels are considered to be an Amniotic Fluid Index (AFI) of 5 to 25 centimeters or a fluid level of about 800 to 1000ml. If the fluid measurements are below 5 centimeters, the condition is called oligohydramnios and if the measurement is above 25 centimeters, it is called polyhydramnios.

How Does Low Amniotic Fluid Affect My Baby?

While oligohydramnios (too little amniotic fluid) can happen at any point during a pregnancy, it is most common during the last trimester. Passing the due date for delivery by two weeks or more raises the risk of oligohydramnios.

Once you reach 42 weeks gestation it is possible for the fluids to decrease by half at that point and beyond. Oligohydramnios can cause complications when a pregnancy goes past 41 weeks.

Some of the risks associated with low amniotic fluid include:

· Birth defects as a result of compression of fetal organs

· Increased risk of stillbirth or miscarriage

· Intrauterine growth restriction

· Preterm birth

· Labor complications (cord compression, meconium stained fluid and cesarean delivery)

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