Low Amniotic Fluid Levels – Oligohydramnios

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Amniotic fluid and Oligohydramnios

Oligohydramnios is the condition occurs when the level of amniotic fluid is too little during pregnancy. The amniotic fluid plays a vital role in the baby’s life support system. It helps to protect and aid your unborn baby in the development of body parts such as muscles, limbs, lungs, and digestive system. Amniotic fluid is made soon after the amniotic sac forms at about 12 days after conception. At first, it is made up of water that is provided by the mother. Then, around week 20, the fetal urine becomes the primary substance. Approximately 8% of pregnant women are able to get low levels of amniotic fluid, with about 4% are diagnosed with oligohydramnios. It can happen at any time during your pregnancy, but the most common period is during the last trimester.

Five primary causes of oligohydramnios.

−The first cause is birth defects, which means that your baby has problems during the development of the kidneys or urinary tract. As a result, it could cause little urine production, leading to low levels of amniotic fluid.
Placental problems are the second cause of oligohydramnios. The disability in providing enough blood and nutrients to the baby by the placenta may stop recycling fluid in the baby.
−Thirdly, the leaking or rupture of membranes, a gush of fluid or a slow constant trickle of fluid, can lead to low amniotic fluid levels due to a tear in the membrane. Premature rupture of membranes can also result in low amniotic fluid levels.
−Next, post date pregnancy can lead to oligohydramnios. A post date pregnancy, one that goes over 42 weeks, can experience low levels of amniotic fluid, which could be a result of declining placental function.
−Finally, maternal complications such as maternal dehydration, hypertension, preeclampsia, diabetes, and chronic hypoxia can contribute to low amniotic fluid levels.

Depending on the gestation of the pregnancy, the risks will relate to oligohydramnios. The amniotic fluid is important for the development of muscles, limbs, lungs, and the digestive system. Generally, your baby begins to breathe and swallow the fluid to help their lungs grow and mature in the second trimester. Additionally, the amniotic fluid also offers plenty of rooms for the baby to move around.

How is oligohydramnios diagnosed?

If your healthcare provider suspects that you have oligohydramnios, they will conduct some tests in order to measure the amount of fluid through a few different methods, most commonly through amniotic fluid index (AFI) evaluation or deep pocket measurements.

Oligohydramnios complications

If oligohydramnios occurs in the first half of pregnancy, the complications can be more serious and severe. There could be a compression of fetal organs resulting in birth defects, as well as an increased chance of miscarriage or stillbirth. In case oligohydramnios is detected in the second half of pregnancy, complications can include Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR), preterm birth, labor complications such as cord compression, meconium stained fluid, and C-section delivery.

Treatment options for oligohydramnios

The treatment for low levels of amniotic fluid is determined based on the gestational age of the baby. If your baby is not full term yet, your doctor will monitor you and your levels very closely. Tests such as non-stress and contraction stress tests may be ordered to monitor your baby’s activities. If you are close to delivery, then delivery is usually what most doctors recommend in situations of low amniotic fluid levels.


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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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