Excessive amniotic fluid during pregnancy is just what is sounds like, too much fluid surrounding the baby in the amniotic sac. While extra fluid cushioning the baby might not seem like a problem, inrealityit can make it difficult for baby to move and grow properly.
About 1% of pregnancies will have too much amniotic fluid, a condition known as hydramnios or polyhydramnios. The causes of this condition remain uncertain, but it appears to be more likely to occur in women with diabetes and those carrying multiples.
What is the Danger of Excessive Amniotic Fluid?
The amniotic fluid is an integral part of your unborn baby’s development. In the early weeks of pregnancy, your body circulates fluid into the amniotic sac to cushion and protect your growing baby. The amniotic fluid also keeps baby warm and protects it from possible infections.
After about 14 weeks, baby starts developing respiratory and digestive systems. As babies learn to swallow and breath, they start recycling the amniotic fluid. The fluid is swallowed and inhaled, and then excreted through urine and exhales. Every few hours, your baby has fully recycled all the amniotic fluid in the sac.
Too much amniotic fluid could indicate that baby is having a development problem, which is causing a problem with the recycling function. For example, if baby is suffering a blockage or is unable to swallow properly, this would lead to an excess in amniotic fluids.
It also increases the risk of problems during delivery. In many cases, when the water breaks it can cause placental abruption (when the placenta dislodges either fully or partially), putting both mom and baby at risk.
How Will I Know if I Have Too Much Amniotic Fluid?
When your doctor measures your uterus during regular prenatal visits, it might measure too large for gestational age, or appear to be growing faster than it should. Some women experience back or abdominal pain, become short of breath or have too much swelling in the feet and ankles. Since these symptoms could also indicate other complications, such as preeclampsia, your prenatal care provider will order an ultrasound to measure the amount of fluid in the amniotic sac.
Can the Excess Amniotic Fluid be Removed?
Your doctor will not be able to drain any excess fluid, but sometimes baby will do it for you. If baby’s problem is temporary, and regular ingesting and secreting continues, the situation often corrects itself. It’s normal for the amniotic fluid levels to start decreasing in the third trimester as you get closer to your due date.
If the excess fluid is a result of a treatable complication, such as an infection, treating the complication will often solve the problem. At any rate, your doctor will monitor you and baby closely. You can expect frequent ultrasounds and non-stress tests and possibly an amniocentesis to check for possible genetic defects.
As long as baby is continuing to show signs of proper growth and development, your doctor will not intervene. However, when your labor begins, you will need to go to the hospital immediately, before your water has a chance to break, due to the increased risk of placental abruption.