pregnant woman in a nurseryWhat does it mean if I have unusually high amniotic fluid levels?

When a woman has polyhydramnios, the level of amniotic fluid surrounding the baby is too high during pregnancy. Amniotic fluid is the clear-colored liquid the gives baby I nice cushy place to grow. It also provides baby with fluids. Baby breathes the fluid into its lungs and swallows it. This helps in lung and digestive development. And moving around the fluid gives baby’s developing muscles and bones a prenatal workout.

There are many reasons your fluid can be elevated. There is a wide range for normal fluid, usually measuring between 8 to 22 cm on an ultrasound. The first thing we check for is if there is a difficulty in the baby swallowing and processing the amniotic fluid; we check to see that the bladder and stomach are okay.

We’ll also run prenatal tests to see if the mother is diabetic; some diabetics will have increased fluid in pregnancy. Finally, there are some viral infections that can result in an increase in fluid. Most can be tested for with a blood test.

Women with mild polyhydramnios may have few symptoms. Women with more severe cases may have discomfort in the belly and breathing problems. That’s because the buildup of fluids causes the uterus to crowd the lungs and the organs in the belly.

Polyhydramnios may increase the risk of pregnancy complications such as preterm rupture of the membranes (PROM) (breaks or tears in the sac that holds the amniotic fluid), premature birth, placental abruption (the placenta peels away from the uterine wall before delivery, poor positioning of the fetus, or severe bleeding by the mother after delivery.

The best thing you can do is to go to all your prenatal care appointments. Your health care provider can monitor the size of your belly and how much amniotic fluid is in your womb. In many cases, polyhydramnios goes away without treatment. Other times, the problem may be corrected when the cause is addressed. For example, treating high blood sugar levels in women with diabetes often lowers the amount of amniotic fluid.

Other treatments include removing some amniotic fluid or using medication to reduce fluid levels. Your doctor also may recommend increased fetal monitoring and/or additional ultrasound testing to follow the progress of your fluid and the growth and development of the baby. It’s even possible that you will need labor to be induced, which comes with its own set of possible complications.

Answered by Dr. Karla Loken