Most pregnant women are aware that during pregnancy, the baby is protected by the amniotic sac and fluid inside the uterus. But they wouldn’t have to think about their baby’s amniotic fluid levels, until their doctor tells them it could be a problem.
This article is an attempt to help you understand in simple terms everything that you may need to know about amniotic fluid.
What is Amniotic fluid?
Amniotic Fluid is the fluid inside your uterus or amniotic sac surrounding the baby. It is commonly called a pregnant woman’s water or waters. Amniotic fluid plays a very important role in your baby’s growth and development. It acts as a buffer to protect your baby from external forces and injury. This fluid is clear and pale straw-colored, and is initially created from the mother’s plasma (pale yellow liquid component of blood).
Until the 12th week of pregnancy, amniotic fluid is mostly water with electrolytes. In the second trimester proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and urea are present, which aid in the growth of the baby.
From around 16 weeks of pregnancy, the baby’s kidneys begin to function, and fetal urine becomes the main source of amniotic fluid. The other source of amniotic fluid is fluid excreted from the baby’s lungs.
Why Amniotic fluid?
Amniotic fluid acts as a buffer to protect the developing baby, cushioning against any bumps or injury. It also allows for easy movement, which promotes muscular and skeletal development.
Amniotic fluid swallowed by the baby helps to form the gastrointestinal tract. Swallowing is an important developmental skill babies practice in-utero for many months, in preparation for breastfeeding after the birth. The fluid forms urine & maintains a constant temperature for baby. In short, the functions could be listed as following:
- Allow room for foetal growth, movement and development
- Ingestion into GIT – growth and maturation
- Foetal pulmonary development
- Protects foetus from trauma.
- Maintains temperature
- Contains anti-bacterial activity
- Aids dilation of the cervix during labour
How much Amniotic fluid?
As the baby grows it produces more amniotic fluid. The amount increases until the baby is about 32 week’s gestation. The amniotic fluid levels then remains constant until the baby is full term (37 to 42 weeks) when the levels start to decline. Small changes in the level occur as the baby swallows the fluid.
The changes in amniotic fluid levels will be carefully monitored by your doctor, to understand the balance between fluid production and clearance indicating foetal health. In some pregnancies, there may be too much (polyhydramnios) or too little (oligohydramnios) amniotic fluid.
Do I have to worry about Amniotic fluid?
The amniotic fluid plays an important role in the health and development of your growing baby. If your doctor believes there is an issue with amniotic fluid levels, a number of scans may be necessary to determine if the volume is normal for you or there is an underlying problem. Depending on the cause and gestation, there are a number of treatment options that your doctor may suggest to ensure smooth pregnancy and your baby’s health.