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Quick Facts

Problems With Amniotic Fluid

By The Manual's Editorial Staff,

What is amniotic fluid?

Amniotic fluid is the liquid that surrounds your baby when you're pregnant. The amniotic fluid is held in the amniotic sac. The amniotic sac forms inside of your uterus (womb) when you're pregnant. It contains your baby and the amniotic fluid. Your amniotic sac breaks open (ruptures) and amniotic fluid leaks out when labor starts. This is called having your "water break."

What are amniotic fluid problems?

You have an amniotic fluid problem if you have too little or too much amniotic fluid.

Too much amniotic fluid

Having too much amniotic fluid can cause you to have:

  • Severe breathing problems

  • Early labor (before your baby’s organs are done growing)

Doctors often don't know what causes you to have too much amniotic fluid. Sometimes, you can have too much amniotic fluid if you:

  • Have diabetes

  • Are pregnant with more than one baby

  • Have a baby whose blood doesn't mix well with yours (Rh incompatibility)

  • Have a baby with a defect, including brain or spinal cord defects

Too little amniotic fluid

Having too little amniotic fluid can cause your baby’s body or lungs to grow abnormally.

You can have too little amniotic fluid if:

  • Your baby has kidney defects, other birth defects, hasn't grown as much as expected, or has died

  • Your placenta (the organ that feeds your unborn baby) isn't working right

  • Your pregnancy has lasted too long (42 weeks or more)

  • You used medicines that can cause this problem, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or an ACE inhibitor

How can doctors tell if I have an amniotic fluid problem?

Doctors might suspect a problem if your uterus isn’t the size it should be for how far along your pregnancy is. Also, they may notice an amniotic fluid problem during an ultrasound at a regular office visit. Ultrasound uses sound waves to create moving pictures of the insides of your uterus.

How do doctors treat amniotic fluid problems?

Too much amniotic fluid

You might think that if you have too much amniotic fluid, doctors could just remove the extra fluid with a needle. Although that sometimes helps, it doesn't usually seem to make a difference. Instead, doctors:

  • Treat the cause, if there is one—for example, giving medicine to treat diabetes

  • Monitor your baby carefully and deliver your baby if there are signs of problems

  • Even if there are no problems, deliver your baby about a week before your due date

Too little amniotic fluid

Doctors will monitor your baby's growth and well-being using ultrasound and sometimes other tests. Unless there are other problems, they'll try to have you deliver the baby around your due date.