Some of the main causes for low amniotic fluid during pregnancy includes breakage of water bag, problems in the placenta, certain medication, complications with identical twins health issues with the baby and chronic hypoxia to name a few.
What does Low Amniotic Fluid mean?
Low amniotic fluid can be dangerous in a pregnancy. It is the amniotic fluid that keeps the baby safe and creates an environment for the baby to grow and thrive. If the levels of this fluid dip, there can be developmental issues in the unborn child. Read on for more details on the causes of low amniotic fluid.
The amniotic fluid protects the baby when it stays in the womb of the mother. Considering its role in the life support system of the child during the pre-delivery days, it is of vital importance. It helps in the development of limbs, muscles, digestive system and lungs of the child. In a nutshell, it arranges living conditions for the child during the pregnancy days of the mother. The fluid is produced as soon as the amniotic sac is formed. This happens around twelve days after the conception. In the initial days, it is made up of water, from the body of the mother. Later, foetal urine makes up this fluid for the next 20 weeks.
Amniotic fluid helps the baby to grow and easily move within the womb. The baby starts breathing in the second trimester. During this time, it swallows a certain amount of amniotic fluid. The baby can tumble over with the help of this fluid and the mother feels these movements. In particular cases, the quantity of fluid may turn up to be too low. This is called oligohydramnios. Again, when the fluid is present in excessive quantities, it is known as polyhydramnios.
Oligohydramnios: When is it Caused?
When the mother has little amniotic fluid in the womb for the baby, it is known as oligohydramnios. Different methods have been adopted by the doctors to measure the amount of this fluid. Amniotic fluid index (AFI) is the most common parameter to measure the quantity of this fluid. In case the fluid level is below 5 cm, or the fluid pocket is lower than 2 to 3 cm in depth, or the volume of fluid is less than 500 ml when the mother is 32-36 pregnant, the doctors suspect that a diagnosis of oligohydramnios is needed.
Well, low levels of amniotic fluid can be detected in around 8% of the pregnant women, while oligohydramnios occurs in 4% of women. In case the woman has exceeded her due date by more than 2 weeks, the level of amniotic fluid decreases in the body. At the 42nd week, the level may decrease to half. It causes complications in pregnant women if the delivery gets delayed up to the 41st week.
Causes of Low Amniotic Fluid During Pregnancy?
Oligohydramnios can be caused due to a number of reasons. The six most common reasons are:
1. Breakage of water
In case of the water breaks, it does not always gush out. When the amniotic sac suffers a tear, it gradually leaks out. In case the water breaks prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy, antibiotics are prescribed by the doctor. This keeps the mother and baby protected against infection. Besides protection, it helps to delay the delivery, so that the baby gets enough time to develop. It prolongs the process so that the labour can be induced by the doctors. At times, the labour starts on its own and doctors do not have to induce it in these cases.
2. Problems in the placenta
When the placenta is unable to provide adequate nutrients and blood to the baby, the mother may have low amniotic fluid. High blood pressure, diabetes, lupus and pre-eclampsia may result in complications in the placenta. In case the pregnancy exceeds 42 weeks, it can cause placental problems.
3. Certain medication
Certain medicines, prescribed to treat high blood pressure can lead to oligohydramnios. These medicines affect the level of amniotic fluid in the body. Before consuming any medicine during your pregnancy, you should consult with your doctor regarding its safety.
4. Health issues with the baby
The amniotic fluid is sometimes consumed by the baby. It passes out as urine. In case the baby does not produce sufficient amounts of urine, it may cause oligohydramnios. This also indicates that the baby has certain issues with the kidneys or urinary system.
5. Complications with identical twins
In case you have identical twins, they share the placenta. This may lower the level of amniotic fluid. One child may get more blood in comparison to the other. This condition is known to twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome.
6. Chronic hypoxia
In case the mother has chronic hypoxia, she may have low levels of amniotic fluid. Consult the doctors to seek necessary treatments in these cases.
Although oligohydramnios can occur at any stage of pregnancy, the most likely phase is the third trimester. Most of the time, the doctors advice mothers to get adequate rest and drink a lot of water to overcome the difficulties.
Risks Associated with Oligohydramnios:
The dangers of low amniotic fluid depend on a few factors like the volume of fluid, how far along the pregnancy the mother is and the cause of low levels of amniotic fluid. The trimester wise risks are as follows:
- Increased chances of miscarriage.
- Compression of fetal organs resulting in birth defects
- Premature births
- Labour complications like breech baby
- Breathing problems (meconium aspiration syndrome)
- Umbilical cord compression leading to foetal distress
- Emergency delivery via cesarean section
- Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR)
- Premature births
Can Low Amniotic Fluid be Treated?
Long-term treatments of oligohydramnios have not proved to be very effective. Some short-term treatment options are available. They may be performed under certain conditions. If you are 36 weeks or above, delivery may be the safest treatment available. The doctor may suggest cesarean section to avoid complications. Sometimes, the reason for low amniotic fluids may be dehydration. In such cases, oral and intravenous fluid therapy has shown to increase the amniotic fluid levels.
Oligohydramnios can present as a challenging condition during labour. Saline may be added through an intrauterine catheter. This added fluid relieves the pressure on the umbilical cord during labour and hence improves the chances of having a normal delivery. This process is called amnio-infusion. This method may also be used to enhance ultrasound images in mothers with low amniotic fluid levels.
Occasionally, prior to delivery, fluid may be injected into the amniotic sac through amniocentesis. The condition improves temporarily, but effects are seen to last only for about a week.
What Can You Do?
- Keep yourself hydrated: One of the simplest methods to cure oligohydramnios is to keep yourself hydrated. Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water every day. You can also drink coconut water.
- Eat fruits with high water percentage: Fruits like watermelon, tomato, strawberries, grapefruit etc. and vegetables like cucumber, spinach, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli etc. have high water content. Increasing consumption of these fruits and vegetables will increase your amniotic fluid.
- Avoid dehydrating herbs: Some herbal supplements parch us. They act as diuretics and increase our urine outputs, which in turn dehydrates our body. The herbs to avoid are dandelion extract, celery seed, watercress and parsley.
- Avoid alcohol: Alcohol not only dehydrates the body, but it also decreases the blood supply to the fetus which plays a vital role in the formation of amniotic fluid. Steering clear of alcohol is step one to increasing amniotic fluid levels.
- Exercise: light exercises every day can improve the blood flow to your uterus and hence increase the amniotic fluid levels. However, it is advised to consult your doctor before starting any hard exercise routine.
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