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Oligohydramnios Means Too Little Fluid

One of the more rare complications that can affect a pregnancy is Oligohydramnios. This is a condition where the volume of amniotic fluid surrounding the baby in the womb is too low. It can be caused by several different things and the effects of it vary depending on how far along the pregnancy has progressed.

Amniotic fluid is created after about 12 days of pregnancy. It is mostly water from the mother’s body at first, but later fetal urine becomes a larger portion of this fluid. The baby is able to move around in this fluid and actually breathes and swallows some of it which aids in the development of the lungs. Low levels of amniotic fluid have been recorded in about 8% of all pregnancies with about half of that being diagnosed with Oligohydramnios.

Defects in the growing fetus are the most common cause of this condition in earlier stages of pregnancy. If the kidneys and urinary tract do not develop properly, the fetus may not produce enough urine to create the proper level of amniotic fluid. Maternal dehydration can also contribute to the condition. If the mother is not taking in enough water to sustain herself, she will not have enough water available to supply the base for the amniotic fluid. Other health concerns with the mother can have an effect on the level of amniotic fluid.

Later in the pregnancy, it is possible for the amniotic fluid level to drop too low though leaking membranes. Sometimes, there will be a gush as if the mother’s water has broken. Other times the leakage can be very slow and take a while for the level of fluid to drop to a point that is considered too low.

Post date pregnancies are those where the mother carries the baby past 42 weeks of gestation. Low amniotic fluid often accompanies this type of complication as the placenta begins to fail and there are not enough nutrients available to the baby. This will result in a drop of fluid levels as the baby stops urinating to create the fluid.

Risks associated with low amniotic fluid include miscarriage, stillbirth and compression of the baby’s organs that can result in birth defects. The chances of these occurring are increased if the level of amniotic fluid drops too low during the first half of the pregnancy. Risks associated with low amniotic fluid levels in the second half of pregnancy include premature birth and labor complications.

Treatment options for this condition are limited. Oral and IV fluids for the mother have been shown to help somewhat in raising the levels of amniotic fluid. An amnio –infusion during labor can help reduce the effects of labor complications and injections of fluid by amniocentesis have been shown to be effective for up to a week.
Oligohydramnios, or low amniotic fluid is a serious condition that can have long term effects on the health of both mother and baby. It includes many risks to the child’s health and has only limited ways in which it can be treated.

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