In addition to acting as a protective shield for the growing fetus, the amniotic fluid also plays a pivotal role in the overall development of the vital body parts and organs of the baby (such as the digestive system, muscles, lungs, limbs, to name a few) within the womb. In the first few days of pregnancy, the amniotic fluid comprises mainly of water coming from the expectant mother. Soon after (by week 20 of pregnancy), the fetal urine becomes a vital component of the amniotic fluid. In some women during pregnancy, the level of the amniotic fluid can drop down drastically, thereby triggering complications in the pregnancy. To understand the condition better, here is a complete guide emphasizing on Low amniotic fluid including its causes, symptoms and probable line of treatment.
What is Low Amniotic Fluid and what are the risks involved?
Also known as Oligohydramnios, Low Amniotic Fluid is a condition characterized by a significant drop (less than 500ml) in the level of the amniotic fluid. An amniotic fluid index (AFI) is often used in estimating the volume of the amniotic fluid in the fetus quantitatively. In the case of an Oligohydramnios, the value of AFI is found to be less than 5 cm.
The associated complications and risks often depend on the stage of the pregnancy at which the condition is diagnosed. A low amniotic fluid in the 2nd trimester can go a long way to trigger miscarriage or birth defects. Incidences of stillbirths and premature births are also higher.
On the other hand, a low amniotic fluid during the 3rd trimester can severely impact the overall growth and development of the baby.
With the low volume of amniotic fluid, some women may also be required to undergo a C-section.
With oligohydramnios, there is a high probability of the umbilical cord getting squeezed or compressed during delivery, complicating things further.
What triggers a low amniotic fluid and what are the common symptoms and associated discomfort?
Some of the factors responsible for a dip in the volume of the amniotic fluid includes
- Medical conditions such as high blood pressure (chronic) and diabetes (pre-existing) makes a woman more susceptible to a low amniotic fluid during pregnancy
- The low volume of the amniotic fluid can be brought about by the use of some specific drugs and medicines such as ACE or angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors.
- Oligohydramnios can also be an outcome of a genetic predisposition.
- Placental Abruption can also give rise to a low amniotic fluid. Placental abruption is a medical condition whereby there is detachment (complete or partial) of the placenta from the uterus way before the delivery takes place.
The following symptom(s) are often indicative of a low amniotic fluid
- The growth of the baby is slower than expected.
- The expectant mother also does not tend to put on enough body weight.
- Leaking of fluids from the vagina.
In most of the cases of a low amniotic fluid, a doctor opts for an early delivery to minimize the complications and any further damage to the baby.
Injecting a saline solution or amniotic fluid into the amniotic cavity (a procedure termed as Amnioinfusion), can go a long way to improve the condition of Oligohydramnios, especially if there are complications such as abnormalities in the fetal heart rate at the time of the delivery.