Is Low Amniotic Fluid Painful?

Is Low Amniotic Fluid Painful

Amniotic fluid in the mother’s womb is crucial for maintaining the fetus’s temperature during pregnancy. So, what happens if the amount of amniotic fluid is very low? Find out here.

Amniotic fluid, also known as amnion fluid, plays a significant role in supporting the fetus’s development in the uterus during pregnancy. In some cases, the level of amniotic fluid can become too low, and this can be detected through an ultrasound examination (Ultrasonography).

Proper levels of amniotic fluid are essential as this fluid helps protect the fetus and regulate its surrounding temperature. Let’s find out the causes of low amniotic fluid and how to increase it through the following article.

What is Amniotic Fluid?

In early pregnancy, the production of amniotic fluid begins from the mother’s body, mostly consisting of water produced by the mother’s body itself. However, after reaching 20 weeks of pregnancy, most of the amniotic fluid comes from the fetus’s urine (the baby swallows the fluid and excretes it).

Amniotic fluid is beneficial as it provides cushioning to protect the fetus from injury and provides space for growth, movement, and development. Additionally, amniotic fluid prevents the umbilical cord from being trapped between the fetus and the uterine wall.

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According to the Journal of Perinatology, the level of amniotic fluid varies throughout various stages of pregnancy. From weeks 32 to 34, the volume of amniotic fluid can increase up to 800 milliliters (ml) or more. From week 34 until delivery, this fluid decreases to about 400 ml.

Doctors use a scale called the amniotic fluid index (AFI) to check the healthy level of amniotic fluid. The AFI measurement is in centimeters (cm). A normal AFI score is between 5 and 25 cm. An AFI score below 5 cm is considered too low, and this condition is called oligohydramnios.

Causes of Low Amniotic Fluid in the Mother

If you have been diagnosed with low amniotic fluid, the next steps will depend on the cause of the low fluid and its severity. Your gestational age, your health, and the health of your baby will also be taken into consideration.

Several factors can cause low amniotic fluid. These factors include:

  1. Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM): This occurs when the amniotic sac ruptures or starts leaking before the designated delivery time.
  2. Placental Problems: The placenta plays a vital role in supplying nutrients and oxygen to your baby. If the placenta is not functioning properly or begins to detach from the uterine wall, your baby may not receive enough nutrition to produce sufficient amniotic fluid.
  3. Birth Defects: If the baby has physical problems, especially in the kidneys, they may not produce enough urine, leading to low amniotic fluid.
  4. Maternal Health Conditions: Complications in the mother, such as preeclampsia, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and dehydration, can cause low amniotic fluid.
  5. Post-term Pregnancy: Amniotic fluid naturally starts to decrease after 36 weeks of pregnancy, and it is very likely to be too low after 42 weeks of pregnancy.
  6. Medications: Some medications, particularly those used to treat high blood pressure, can cause low amniotic fluid.

Treatment for Low Amniotic Fluid

There is no specific treatment to completely address this condition. However, there are short-term treatment options available that can help in certain situations. Here are some treatments that can be considered for managing low amniotic fluid:

  1. Drink More Fluids: Drinking plenty of fluids can make a significant difference. According to one study published in the National Library of Medicine, hydration is helpful in increasing amniotic fluid levels in women between 37 to 41 weeks of pregnancy.
  2. Amnioinfusion: Amnioinfusion involves injecting a saline solution through the cervix and into the amniotic sac. Though it may sound uncomfortable, it can temporarily increase the level of amniotic fluid. This is also done to improve visibility during ultrasound examinations or before delivery if the baby’s heartbeat is abnormal.
  3. Injection of Fluid Using Amniocentesis: Amniocentesis involves inserting a thin needle directly into the amniotic sac through the abdomen. If you have low amniotic fluid before or during labor, the doctor may provide fluid through amniocentesis before you give birth. This can help your baby maintain mobility and heart rate during labor, which may reduce the possibility of a cesarean section.
  4. Intravenous Fluids (IV): Doctors may recommend administering fluids through intravenous infusion (IV). This can be very helpful if you are experiencing dehydration due to nausea or vomiting, or if you need to hydrate your body more rapidly. Essentially, this is one method of quickly obtaining essential fluids into your body.
  5. Treatment Based on the Underlying Cause: Since low amniotic fluid can be caused by underlying conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, treating these conditions can improve your amniotic fluid levels. This may involve the use of medications, monitoring blood sugar levels, or more frequent visits to the obstetrician. These medical conditions can also cause other problems during pregnancy.
  6. Sufficient Rest: Increasing bed rest or resting on the sofa can help improve blood flow to the placenta, which, in turn, helps increase amniotic fluid. Bed rest is usually recommended if you are in the second trimester or early third trimester. Though you may not be accustomed to resting for extended periods, try to relax during this period. Find Netflix shows to watch while resting.
  7. Additional Check-ups with the Obstetrician: If your pregnancy has not reached 36 weeks, the doctor may recommend closer monitoring. They will suggest more frequent visits and may conduct additional tests to ensure that your baby is in good condition.
  8. Balanced Diet: Low-fat protein, whole grains, and consuming plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables are essential during pregnancy, although there is no strong evidence that it affects amniotic fluid levels, maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy is crucial.

Some animal studies show a negative influence on amniotic fluid levels when the mother consumes high-fat foods like junk food. Therefore, it’s best for the mother to avoid high-fat foods during pregnancy.

Using stevia (artificial sweetener) to increase amniotic fluid has no research support. In fact, some early studies suggest that consuming artificial sweeteners during pregnancy may increase the risk of metabolic disorders in your baby later on.

Early Delivery

If you are at 36 weeks of pregnancy or beyond with low amniotic fluid, the doctor may recommend early delivery. This is because the risk of continuing the pregnancy without sufficient amniotic fluid is quite high. It may lead to or cause fetal death, pressure on the umbilical cord, or meconium aspiration.

The doctor will provide information regarding the benefits and risks of early delivery. It is essential to carefully consider the decision of early delivery, taking into account factors related to pregnancy and the health of both the mother and the baby.

That’s an explanation of the significance of low amniotic fluid during an ultrasound examination. Each case can be different, and it’s essential to consult with a doctor to get appropriate care.

Sources:

  • Medical News Today. Accessed 2023. Tips on how to increase amniotic fluid https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/how-to-increase-amniotic-fluid
  • What to Expect. Accessed 2023. Low Amniotic Fluid (Oligohydramnios) During Pregnancy https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/complications/oligohydramnios.aspx
  • Cleveland Clinic. Accessed 2023. Oligohydramnios https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22179-oligohydramnios
  • Healthline. Accessed 2023. How Can I Increase My Amniotic Fluid Levels? https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/how-to-increase-amniotic-fluid
  • Mayo Clinic. Accessed 2023. What are the treatment options for low amniotic fluid during pregnancy? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/expert-answers/low-amniotic-fluid/faq-20057964
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8416460/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441881/
  • https://www.nature.com/articles/7211290
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