Amniotic Fluid

Definition - What does Amniotic Fluid mean?

Amniotic fluid is a slightly yellowish liquid that surrounds a fetus in utero and plays an important role in fetal development during pregnancy. It is contained in an amniotic sac and serves to provide a cushion effect to the fetus by preventing injury from sudden blows or movements.

Amniotic fluid allows room for the baby to move and grow, helps in the normal development of the respiratory and musculoskeletal system, and prevents the compression of the umbilical cord. Normal levels of amniotic fluid are essential for proper growth of the baby.

FertilitySmarts explains Amniotic Fluid

Normal levels of amniotic fluid vary, but generally, 500-1000 ml of amniotic fluid is present in the amniotic sac. Excess or lack of this fluid is associated with increased fetal morbidity and mortality.

An increase in the volume of amniotic fluid is called hydramnios or polyhydramnios. It could be due to maternal factors or fetal factors and occurs in about one percent of all pregnancies. The most common mother-related cause of hydramnios is diabetes mellitus.

Fetal factors contributing to hydramnios may include abnormalities of the digestive system, heart failure, or congenital infection. Each woman experiences symptoms differently, but common ones are the rapid growth of the uterus, uterine contractions, edema of lower extremities, and abdominal discomfort.

Hydramnios is of special concern as it is associated with premature labor and congenital disabilities in the baby.

On the other hand, a decrease in the volume of amniotic fluid is called oligohydramnios. It is more prevalent as compared to hydramnios and occurs in about four percent of all pregnancies. Oligohydramnios is usually caused due to rupture of amniotic sac before labor, poor fetal growth, malformations of the kidney and urinary tract, and post-term pregnancy.

Too little fluid is of special concern as it may cause poor fetal growth and abnormal or incomplete lungs development. Oligohydramnios also causes complications during delivery.

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