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What You Should Know about Abnormal Amniotic Fluid during Pregnancy


Abnormal amniotic fluid levels are often detected through an ultrasound. When levels are too low or too high, there may be complications, which is why it’s critical that a patient is carefully monitored throughout pregnancy. Amniotic fluid is essential in not only protecting the unborn baby, but also aids in the development of vital organs such as kidneys and lungs. It also allows the fetus to move around to develop its muscles.

Types of Abnormal Amniotic Fluid Levels

The first type of abnormality is when fluid levels are too low. This is called oligohydramnios and is defined as such when volume is 200 ml or less. The second type is polyhydramnios. This is characterized by fluid levels being 2000 ml or greater.

Complications of Abnormal Amniotic Fluid Levels

Not everyone with oligohydramnios is going to experience complications. An ultrasound may indicate instances of complications.

Earlier in pregnancy, adhesions from having low levels of amniotic fluid could result in the umbilical cord being constricted. And without having adequate space for the developing baby to move within the womb, it could lead to deformities.

In later pregnancy, oligohydramnios may be a sign of fetal distress. When the umbilical cord is compressed, the baby could be deprived of oxygen. If undetected, this could result in significant, permanent brain damage or even death.

Other possible complications of low amniotic fluid during pregnancy include intrauterine growth restriction or birth defects involving the lungs, urinary tract or kidneys.

Polyhydramnios can lead to the following complications if not detected and treated:

  • birth defects – neural tube, intestinal, central nervous system;
  • umbilical cord prolapse – compression that reduces or completely cuts off blood flow and oxygen to baby;
  • placental abruption – partial or complete peeling/tearing away of placenta from uterine wall; and
  • breech birth – baby positioned to come out feet or buttocks first, instead of head first.

Risk Factors for Abnormal Amniotic Fluid Levels

Sometimes there is no explanation for fluid levels that are too high or too low. However, in some circumstances, oligohydramnios may be associated with diabetes. Proper detection and treatment of this condition in the mother could help avoid complications. Treatment of low amniotic fluid may include amnioinfusion to replace levels, or a doctor may need to deliver the baby early.

Polyhydramnios may also be associated with diabetes, as well as with multiple pregnancies. Sometimes treatment is required, such as reducing the fetal urine production through medication or performing an amniocentesis to remove fluid. And like those with oligohydramnios, an earlier delivery may be required.

Recognizing risk factors is just one important factor with abnormal amniotic fluid levels. Also important is closely monitoring the patient and using appropriate types of treatment if it becomes necessary.

When there is a failure to recognize risk factors or to detect fluid levels that are too high or too low, it could be a case of medical negligence. Or if the right measures aren’t taken to treat these conditions, a doctor may be liable for resulting injuries. If you suspect malpractice, contact a lawyer at The Becker Law Firm.

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