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Amniotic Fluid: What is it and Why is it so important?

Amniotic Fluid: What is it and Why is it so important?

Many things develop during pregnancy inside your body and along with your physical appearance. One of those things is a fluid that starts to develop shortly after conception. While it may not be something you notice because it’s internal it is always a good idea to understand what is going on inside of yourself during pregnancy. It eases the stress of not knowing how things happen. 

Amniotic fluid is the fluid that develops inside to protect the baby and form the amniotic sac. This guide will help you understand what role it plays during your pregnancy and why it is so important. 

What is Amniotic Fluid?

Amniotic fluid is the fluid that develops around 12 days after conception and presents itself as a watery yellow clear substance inside the body. This watery substance stays within the amniotic sac and serves to protect the baby as well as provide nutrients to the baby. While it contains mostly water at first. Then later the baby’s urine starts to make up the amniotic fluid. 

The body produces just enough to perform its function but if the body doesn’t produce enough or produces too much there can be risks and complications that develop during the pregnancy as the baby grows. 

Importance of Amniotic Fluid

Amniotic fluid plays a vital role in keeping the baby safe while they are developing in the womb. Besides safety from being bumped around it also has antibodies and nutrients to assist the baby during growth. Let’s dive in a little more to each benefit and importance that comes from amniotic fluid.

Amniotic Fluid Function

Amniotic Fluid Function

Amniotic fluid functions so that the baby can move in the womb without injury. Think of it as a shock absorber from any outside pressure or bumps that may occur during pregnancy. Because the baby can move in the womb without fear or injury their bones can properly develop and grow. The following occurs from amniotic fluid. 

Nutrients

Amniotic fluid works to provide roughly 10% to 14% of the nutrients to the fetus. These can contain some proteins as well as lactate and glucose. These are all important for the baby to consume as they grow. 

Secretion

While amniotic fluid begins as water produced by the mother it turns into mostly urine from the baby. This is because the baby uses the amniotic fluid as nourishment.  If the baby passes their first bowel movement before birth this can lead to a problem called Meconium. This can often lead to breathing problems or infection. 

Protection

Amniotic fluid protects the umbilical cord by providing a barrier between that and the fetus. It also helps protect the fetus from any infections as there are antibody properties. 

Levels of Amniotic Fluid 

Levels of amniotic fluid get measured through an index to make sure that there is just enough. As mentioned, if there is too little or too much it can become a problem. Here are the following levels on the index.

0-5 CM

This is considered to be a low level of amniotic fluid and is often referred to as Oligohydramnios. This can happen if there is a rupture causing the amniotic fluid to leak. This can decrease urine and kidney function because the fetus is not getting enough. 

5-25 CM 

This is what is considered to be normal levels of amniotic fluid. This is when the baby can urinate thus creating more fluid. 

25 + CM

Polyhydramnios is when the baby is not able to take in the amniotic fluid needed and if there is too much being produced. This can result in issues like diabetes among others. 

Signs of Leaking Amniotic Fluid 

Signs of Leaking Amniotic Fluid

When the amniotic levels are too low this is an indicator that there is a leak. There are however a few additional signs of leaving amniotic fluid that mothers should be aware of so they can contact their doctor. 

  • If you see that your urine or any leakage is greenish or brownish then you should call your doctor right away. This can indicate your baby passed a bowel movement as we mentioned. 
  • Amniotic fluid has no odor unlike urine so that is how you tell the difference between the two.
  • Amniotic fluid is also likely to saturate your underwear if it is leaking as opposed to a few drips. 
  • Amniotic fluid may have a white speckled look and is sometimes included in music or blood. 

If you still aren’t sure you can always line your underwear with a panty liner after you pee. In the first 30 minutes to an hour, you check to see if it is saturated with a yellow tint or whether it has a clear color.

Amniotic Fluid Risks 

Amniotic Fluid Risks

There are a few risks that are associated with your amniotic fluid. The two we have described above relate to having too low or too much amniotic fluid. While we will dive further in-depth with those it is also important to note that amniotic fluid embolisms can occur. 

Amniotic Fluid Embolism

Having amniotic fluid embolism is a very rare condition. However, if you do have it it is serious and must be monitored very closely by your doctor. This condition happens when the amniotic fluid that is meant to protect the baby finds its way into the mother’s bloodstream. 

This occurs most often during labor or postpartum. However as mentioned it is rare. While it can be difficult for doctors to diagnose there are a few related symptoms that can be a sign of this. However, they are also signs of other things which is what makes it difficult to diagnose

  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Sudden low blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular collapse indicating the heart cannot effectively pump blood
  • Blood clots 
  • Bleeding from the uterus, cesarean incision, or IV spots
  • Disturbances to the rhythm of the heart
  • Chills
  • A major shift in mood balance
  • Seizures
  • Fetal distress
  • Loss of consciousness

High Amniotic Fluid

Polyhydramnios is when there is too much amniotic fluid in the amniotic sac as mentioned. When the baby can’t take in as much as they need to this can result in a multitude of issues. This occurs in 1% to 2% making it also less common. This is most likely to happen in the second trimester of the pregnancy from the increased build-up of amniotic fluid production. 

In situations where the condition transfers from mild to severe the mother experiences any of the following symptoms. 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Preterm labor 
  • Swelling in the lower extremities
  • Swelling of the vulva
  • Decreased urine production
  • Constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Tightness in the stomach

Some of the known causes for high amniotic fluid are birth defects, gestational diabetes, infection during pregnancy, blood incapabilities between mother and baby, and more. 

Low Amniotic Fluid

Oligohydramnios is the opposite of having too much amniotic fluid. This is when there is not enough amniotic fluid and the baby will lack the nutrients the amniotic fluid brings to them. When low amniotic levels occur in the first half of the pregnancy this leaves a possibility for birth defects. This is because of the vital role it plays in nerve development as well as the growth of the bones and muscles. 

Still, relatively rare oligohydramnios is only diagnosed in about 4 out of every 100 pregnancies. The other risk factors that can occur are placenta abnormalities and lead to uterine ruptures. This can be a very serious condition to develop and cause injury to both the mother and the baby. 

While there are no long-term solutions, doctors can provide short-term solutions to help this condition. 

Amniotic Fluid FAQs

Amniotic fluids are a very confusing subject matter within pregnancy. While it almost naturally works itself out and these conditions are rare it can still be concerning. This is why mothers like to minotaur their fluid secretions to make sure everything is OK. For the remaining questions, you have about amniotic fluid, we know you have them, here they are!

Can you increase your amniotic fluid levels?

There are a few different things that you and your doctor can do to help increase the amniotic fluid levels. One of the easiest and most simple things you can do is drink more water. This is an easy treatment for mild and less serious conditions. More specifically drinking water throughout your pregnancy has been thought to help produce more amniotic fluid between weeks 37-31 of pregnancy. 

Something that your doctor can do for a short-term fix is to inject saltwater through your cervix and into your amniotic sac. This is often called amnioinfusion. This isn’t the only reason why doctors do this. It also helps see the baby better during the ultrasound. Other fixes happen more during delivery of the baby and more serious cases. 

If you aren’t gaining enough weight is it safe to assume you’re low on amniotic fluid?

Not showing and gaining a ton of weight doesn’t mean that you are low on amniotic fluid. While it can certainly be a factor and cause for concern that you are leaking amniotic fluid or not producing enough, it doesn’t mean that is the answer. Many women start to show later in their pregnancies while others show right away. 

If you are struggling to put on weight during your pregnancy it is important to consult your doctor because while it may not be amniotic fluid that is the factor, there could be other underlying health issues that are important to check out. 

Just keep in mind it is sometimes within someone’s genetics to be a little underweight. 

Are there ways to reduce excess amniotic fluid production?

Having too much amniotic fluid can be as dangerous as having too little. Doctors have found ways to release the amount of amniotic fluid through different methods. Amnioreduction is one of the methods to do this. Amnioreduction is when the doctor withdraws fluid from the womb. The tough part about this method is that the medical community has yet to agree on how to do this kind of procedure and how much should be taken at one time.

The more common route which may be less effective in some cases is for the mother to take medications. Sometimes expecting mothers don’t like taking medications because of the possible risks to the baby. These medications are generally safe and are often ones such as prostaglandin synthetase inhibitors, or sulindac. 

Conclusion

Amniotic fluid is one of those things that you don’t think about. You may have always just assumed the baby is protected in the womb but never really understood why. Amniotic fluid and the amniotic sac are to thank for the protection of the baby. But that’s not all. The amniotic fluid your body produces is also a key nutrient source for the baby and gives them lactate, proteins, and more to allow for bone growth and nerve development. 

Something that may be not so pleasant to mothers is knowing that what first starts as water turns to the baby’s urine. This is because the baby is digesting the amniotic fluid that you produce to get those key nutrients. While mothers don’t monitor the amniotic fluid levels like crazy it is a good idea to check in. Some moms always feel like they’re leaking and if those leaks happen to be looking like urine then there is no issue at all. If the leakage starts to feel overly saturated or if it is green or brown you should call a doctor. 

This could be a sign of health complications with the baby and needs to be looked at right away. Most of the risks and problems that are associated with amniotic fluid are rare within mothers. Sometimes cases are mild and don’t cause much concern. Just remember more information is better when learning about your body and pregnancy.