Oligohydramnios (Low amniotic fluid)


Low amniotic fluid: What you can do about it

What is Oligohydramnios or Low amniotic fluid in pregnancy?

Amniotic fluid is the liquid matter that nourishes your baby in the womb and protects it from unexpected jerks and movements. It also regulates the temperature for the baby, as the baby’s body is still developing and cannot yet regulate body temperature on its own. By 37 weeks, your body should have 800-1000 ml of amniotic fluid. The level of amniotic fluid is measured by amniotic fluid index. If the level of amniotic fluid measures less than 5%, then it is called Oligohydramnios and needs to be treated immediately. Most commonly it occurs in the third trimester of the pregnancy. If not treated properly, it can create a lot of problems.

What happens in case of low amniotic fluid?

  • Disruption in the physical and mental development of the baby causing the baby to be weak.
  • Restricted growth of the lungs.
  • Restricted baby’s movements within the womb resulting in problems such as breech baby or bottom-down position.
  • Risk of premature labor and miscarriage
  • Higher chance of baby passing meconium and inhaling the amniotic fluid may cause breathing problems.

What can I do in case of low amniotic fluid levels?

Of course it can be worrying when you are told that there is low amniotic fluid. These are small things that you can do and that have proven to be helpful to manage Oligohydramnios.

  • Keep yourself extremely hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Don’t take too much stress as it can cause premature labor.
  • Treatment consists of inserting extra fluid from outside to maintain the fluid level. This extra fluid also helps minimize the pregnancy complications.

Oligohydramnios: Causes, Normal Amniotic Fluid levels and Treatment

Causes of Oligohydramnios:

There are many causes for Oligohydramnios. The common ones include fetal abnormalities, intake of drugs, or uteroplacental insufficiency. Here are some of the causes :

Defects in birth : If the mother has had a birth defect the kidneys or the urinary tract are not developed, it could lead to oligohydramnios.

Ruptured membranes : If there is a tear in the membrane, or premature rupture of membranes, it could lead to low amniotic fluid levels as well.

Carrying twins : If the mother is carrying twins, the chances of her having low amniotic fluid increases exponentially.

Intrauterine infections: If the mother has had a UTI, there are times when it also leads to low amniotic fluid.

Normal amniotic fluid levels

Amniotic fluid levels are measured by Amniotic Fluid Index or AFI. A normal AFI is considered when the AFI is between 8-18. From the 20th week to the 35th, the amniotic fluid starts reducing in preparation for childbirth - at that point, an AFI of 14 is considered normal. If your AFI is lesser than 5 or 6, it is considered as oligohydramnios.

Oligohydramnios treatment and management

If you’ve been diagnosed with Oligohydramnios, do not worry too much, most women who develop a mild case of Oligohydramnios often do not need treatment. In cases like these, your doctor will closely monitor fetal heart rate and development of lungs and the baby’s movement, and will help deliver the baby sooner if need be.

In case of more severe cases, there are various treatment options available like -

Amnioinfusion : This is a treatment process where an isotonic fluid is inserted the amniotic cavity to thicken the thinned meconium.

Vesico Amniotic Shunts : If amnioinfusion doesn’t work, this is the next thing recommended. This procedure is where a small shunt is inserted into the unborn baby’s bladder.

Maternal Re-hydration : This is a self-explanatory process - the mother has to drink as much fluids as possible. You can choose to drink fruit juices if water is not appetizing.

Bed Rest: The more bed rest you get during this time, the better it helps. This means getting up only when absolutely needed like trips to the loo, but otherwise lying down for the duration.

Effects of having low amniotic fluid at 36 weeks

Usually at the 36th week of gestation, if oligohydramnios is suspected, the foetus might experience discomfort and compression of fetal organs might happen, but don’t worry, your doctor would be closely monitoring foetal movement and will work on delivering your baby sooner if she or he is under any distress.

Remember to always keep hydrating yourself throughout the pregnancy even if it means a hundred trips to the loo! It will help in the long run.