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What Does Low Amniotic Fluid Really Mean

What Does Low Amniotic Fluid Really Mean

By Kasee Bailey

May 30, 2018

Updated Oct 25, 2023

5 min read

Preganant with in home provider

It’s clear — to you moms most of all — during pregnancy, your body is going through a lot of changes to prepare for the growth and arrival of your little one.

Amniotic Fluid

One of these crucial changes is the environment that develops for your baby to grow in — one that is established in the early weeks after conception.

An important — for your baby’s development and a crucial part of baby’s life support system in the womb is the amniotic sac and the fluid contained inside. Made up of water provided by the mother, and later fetal urine, this fluid cushions and protects your infant, aids growth and development, and prevents compression of the umbilical cord. (It also provides the space for your baby to perform those cartwheels and kicks you keep feeling!)

The amount of amniotic fluid present reflects the health and well-being of your baby.

Having low amniotic fluid (the medical term for this condition is oligohydramnios), indicates the amount of fluid measures lower than expected for your baby’s gestational age. What does this mean? Well, instances of low amniotic fluid can happen at any period during your pregnancy, but most often occurs during the third trimester.

Low Levels of Amniotic Fluid

Low levels of amniotic fluid are experienced by 8 percent of pregnant woman, (4 percent labeled as having oligohydramnios) and can be caused by a number of different factors, including:

  • Maternal Health Conditions, including dehydration, diabetes, preeclampsia, hypoxia, and more.
  • Infant Health Conditions, like birth defects (say, poor development of kidneys or the urinary tract), or inhibited growth.
  • Placental Abruption, a occurrence in which the placenta breaks free of the inner uterine wall before delivery. Also, if your placenta is not providing enough nutrients to baby, he or she may not be producing fluids.
  • Use of Certain Medications
  • Membrane Ruptures, tears (as in, your water breaking) that prematurely drain your body of precious fluid.
  • Past-Due Pregnancies, or pregnancies that exceed 42 weeks. These pregnancies often experience declining function of the placenta, and thus, lower levels of amniotic fluid.

Do I Have Low Amniotic Fluid?

How do you know if you have low amniotic fluid? If you’re leaking fluid, aren’t gaining enough weight, or receive indication that your baby isn’t growing properly, these maybe be clues suggesting a possible oligohydramnios condition. Pay attention during your ultrasounds — these will help you understand your amniotic fluid levels.

So, now what? Well, if you have low amniotic fluid, the associated risks and consequently, the type of treatment needed will depend on the cause and severity of the low fluid, your baby’s gestational age and health, and (just as importantly) your health.

If you’re still in early stages of pregnancy (i.e. not yet full term), complications can be more severe — like preterm or stillbirth, miscarriage, or even birth defects. Your doctor may recommend frequent fetal monitoring (via ultrasounds and/or stress tests) and an increase in your fluid intake — orally, or through an IV. Later-stage pregnancies that experience low amniotic fluid can cause complications during labor and birth (and an increased chance of birth by c-section) and are most often treated through the delivery of your baby.

Doctors may also recommend alternative treatments, like fluid injections or amnio-infusions via an intrauterine catheter. Moms, consult with your physician to get help in providing the best care for your baby. (And don’t forget to guzzle that H2O!)