Oligohydramnios: Implications Of Low Amniotic Fluid Level During Pregnancy

Oligohydramnios
Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

What Is Oligohydramnios?

The amniotic fluid is like a life support system for the baby. During pregnancy, it nourishes, protects and cushions it. The presence of amniotic fluid ensures that the development and growth of the baby takes place in an adequate manner. The optimum volume of amniotic fluid varies from person to person however if the level is dangerously low (less than 4 cm), the condition is called Oligohydramnios.

Oligohydramnios Symptoms

Doctors have concluded that certain conditions such as diabetes, renal disorders and hypertension increases* the likelihood of oligohydramnios during pregnancy. If you suffer from any of these conditions, then communicate with your doctor before planning a family. Understand and appreciate the risks involved and then take the decision accordingly.

What Causes Low Amniotic Fluid?

Oligohydramnios Causes
  • Doctors believe that the levels of amniotic fluid are an indication of the function of the placenta.
  • Placenta is the tube linked to the baby’s naval that provided him/her with nourishment and food.
  • Too low level of amniotic fluid indicates that the placenta is not working to its optimum. It is an indicator of many problems.
  • Low amniotic fluid volume or oligohydramnios can lead to stunted growth, slow heart beat and in the most severe cases even prenatal mortality.

How Will You Know If You Have Low Levels Of Amniotic Fluid?

By yourself, it will be difficult to know the amniotic fluid. This is another solid reason that you should see your doctor regularly during the course of your pregnancy.

How To Diagnose Oligohydramnios?

The most common and widely practiced method of measuring amniotic fluid is the AFI (Amniotic Fluid Index) method. It works by dividing the uterine compartment into four sections. The deepest area of fluid is measured in each quadrant in centimetres. The four areas measured are then added to calculate the average AFI.

Diagnose Oligohydramnios

Other less common methods are also used. Though no method can give sure shot assessment and test results should be exercised in conjunction with prevailing symptoms.

What Treatments Are Available If You Are Experiencing Low Amniotic Fluid?

If you are leaking amniotic fluid during your second trimester pregnancy, then it might be a danger warning. Leaking amniotic fluid can lead to Oligohydramnios. If you are experiencing it, contact your doctor immediately and then discuss your options with him/her.

Low Amniotic Fluid Treatment

If the pregnancy has progressed further away to about 28 weeks, then your doctor might decide to go for a C-Section and deliver a baby. Being born prematurely is safer for your baby as opposed to staying inside you with low amniotic fluid levels.

However, if your pregnancy is still in its second trimester and the foetus has not yet fully developed, the doctor might go for amnioinfusion. Ringer’s solution is injected into the uterus after opening the cervix and rupture of the membranes. However, if you and your doctor decide to go down that road, then you will need to have the procedure done repeatedly as the effects are short lived.

Amniocentesis is another procedure used where fluid is injected prior to delivery. It can ease the labour process.
In some rare cases, increases* fluid intake from mother can show a hopeful increase* in amniotic fluid levels.

Having Low Amniotic Fluid: Does It Affect Your Baby?

As by that point the foetus has not developed properly. A less than 12 week foetus is dependent upon amniotic fluid for a lot of its functions. It is not yet stable, hence needs amniotic fluid for cushioning it during movement. A loss of amniotic fluid in early stages might cause compression of the organs. There is also an increased likelihood of miscarriage ad stillbirth. If oligohydramnios is detected in the second half of your pregnancy, then the prospects might not be so bleak. However, it is still not risk free. The condition might lead to Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR). It can also cause preterm birth. However there is a great chance for the survival of your baby. Your doctor will probably advise you in favour of a Cesarean delivery if the need arises. The doctors will need to be extra vigilant as it can be a complicated labour.

The estimation of risk due to oligohydramnios depends upon the gestation period of the pregnancy. Amniotic Fluid is vital for the growth of muscles, bones, respiratory and the digestive system. After about 12 weeks, the foetus begins to ingest the fluid aid its digestive system and kidneys. The amniotic fluid also allows the baby to move its bones and muscles. Non-movement would lead to stiffness. If oligohydramnios is contracted during the early stages of pregnancy, then it can be highly complicated and dangerous.

Must Watch – Diagnosis And Treatment Of Polyhydramnios And Oligohydramnios

Is Oligohydramnios Common?

If you are detected with the condition of oligohydramnios, communicate openly with your doctor. Go over all the risks involved and the options available to you. Only about 4% of all the pregnancies develop oligohydramnios. Out of those 4%, it is most likely to happen during the third trimester pregnancy.

Final Words

The mortality rate is not very high. If you have oligohydramnios, things might not necessarily be as bleak as you think. Keep your hopes up.

References:

  • Carroll SG, Papaioannou S, Nicolaides KH. Assessment of fetal activity and amniotic fluid volume in the prediction of intrauterine infection in preterm premature amniorrhexis. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1995
  • Mercer BM, Crocker LG, Boe NM, Sibai BM. Induction versus expectant management in premature rupture of the membranes with mature amniotic fluid at 32 to 36 weeks: a randomized trial. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1993

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Author

Expert Author : Peony C Echavez (Consumer Health Digest)

Peony is a registered nurse, and former Director of Nursing services for a
large nursing facility. She has written web content for a large health education website, and currently creates content for a number of health
practisioners.

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