Amniotic Fluid: Too Much? Too Little?

What is amniotic fluid? Amniotic fluid is the fluid that surrounds your baby in the uterus. The fluid is contained in membranes, a bit like a balloon that contains fluid and your baby.

The amniotic fluid plays several important roles:

It cushions your baby to protect him from trauma. It prevents the umbilical cord from becoming compressed. It helps maintain a constant temperature for your baby. It protects against infection, so long as the membranes remain intact (ie, so long as your waters haven’t broken). It allows your baby to move around so that his muscles develop. It helps your baby form his stomach: babies swallow amniotic fluid and this helps the stomach to develop.

Where does amniotic fluid come from?

During the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy, the amniotic fluid comes from your circulation. As your baby starts to swallow the fluid, he excretes it via urine. This fetal urine forms the amniotic fluid after about 12-14 weeks. Yes, this means that most of the fluid is eventually your baby's urine! It’s hard to believe.

Under normal circumstances, the amount of amniotic fluid you have increases until about 34 weeks, after which time it declines a bit until your baby is born.

If you have too much fluid, it is called polyhydramnios, and if you have too little fluid, it is called oligohydramnios.

How would we know?

Most commonly, we find out by palpation. That is, your midwife or obstetrician will feel your belly at your regular antenatal appointments and these checks can suggest you might have too much or too little fluid. The next step would be to confirm this by way of ultrasound.

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