Like the bubble wrap that protects brittle objects, the amniotic fluid in your uterus protects your fetus, softening any possible impact to the abdominal area. Oligohydramnios refer to the condition in which there is lesser amniotic fluid than what is considered normal or necessary. You might not have heard of oligohydramnios because it’s a rare condition. Let’s look at the causes, the symptoms and the treatment!
Causes of low amniotic fluid
The fetus in the amniotic sac drinks the amniotic fluid and expels it out as urine. It is this very cycle that keeps the baby alive. Usually, there is a balance between the amount of amniotic fluid taken in and the amount expelled, keeping the amniotic fluid in the amniotic sac at a certain level. Oligohydramnios refers to low amniotic fluid levels of less than 200mL. The possible reasons why oligohydramnios occur are as follows:
- Preterm premature rupture of the membranes (PPROM): Results in the slow but continual leak of amniotic fluid
- Congenital anomalies in the fetus result in the problems in the kidneys or urinary tract, affecting the production and the release of urine
Gestational hypertension or the decreased function of the placenta results in poor blood circulation in the uterus or the placenta. This results in the decreased production of urine
Long periods of being on your feet result in poor blood circulation in the umbilical cord
Pregnancy is past the expected delivery date (EDD)
Symptoms of oligohydramnios
Amniotic fluid from the range of 500 – 700 mL in the last trimester is considered normal. Though the symptoms are difficult to detect, be on the alert for the main symptoms of oligohydramnios:
- There is no weight gain even as pregnancy advances
The belly doesn’t grow
There is no fetal movement
When touching the belly, the baby’s body parts can be felt
When you have any of the aforementioned symptoms, you might want to consult your practitioner and check if it’s really a case of oligohydramnios. As the symptoms aren’t easy to detect and are few in number, the ultrasound scan results will be a much more accurate way of giving you an accurate answer.
The effects of low amniotic fluid on the baby and on the labor process
The amniotic fluid is the cushion that protects your fetus. If the level of amniotic fluid reduces, there might be umbilical cord compression, or the baby might be compressed by the uterine wall. At the same time, there is nothing much left to cushion any external impact on the fetus, so this could lead to deformities or even fetal asphyxia.
As the fetus also has less amniotic fluid they can breathe in, this affects the fetus’ breathing exercises, resulting in a decrease in lung function and reducing the baby’s chances of survival. During delivery, oligohydramnios could cause umbilical cord compression and fetal hypoxia. Contractions of the uterus also become weaker and labor cannot proceed normally.
How is oligohydramnios treated?
The type of treatment differs depending on when the diagnosis on oligohydramnios comes out, but regardless of when it occurs, they can pose a serious risk to the fetus and result in congenital anomalies. To have the safest labor and delivery you can have, make sure you have an in-depth talk with your practitioner!
First and second trimester
Depending on the mother’s and fetus’ conditions, there might be a need for the mom to be hospitalized. In most cases, the doctor will order bed rest at home – reducing activity and staying home usually is sufficient “treatment”. Though this might mean taking some time off from work, that’ll be the best for the mom and baby! To improve blood circulation in the umbilical cord, take in enough fluids and lie down for long periods of time, and this will help to fight oligohydramnios.
Oligohydramnios in the third trimester can affect the fetus’ overall health, and so there might be a need for you to be hospitalized so the practitioner can monitor your fetus’ condition and tell you the options through which you can deliver your baby.
Amnioinfusion, a process in which normal saline is added into the amniotic cavity, might be done so that check ups and the labor can proceed smoothly. Depending on the fetus’ condition, even if the pregnancy hasn’t yet reached term (Week 37), an emergency delivery or a cesarean section might be done if being in the uterus any longer is deemed as life-threatening to the baby.
What should I do if I’m at risk of oligohydramnios
If you have been diagnosed by the doctor as having oligohydramnios, you might have to be more proactive and ask the people around you to refrain from smoking in the house or when they’re with you. This is because the constituents of tobacco can negatively affect your blood circulation, and this will, in turn, affect the level of amniotic fluid in your uterus. When the amount of amniotic fluid decreases, the fetus doesn’t have sufficient protection, and so is exposed to more danger should there be any physical external impact to your abdominal region.
Wear clothes that are loose-fitting and in no way bind you, and try not to strain your body, especially the lower abdominal region, in any way. Check your discharge diligently – is it amniotic fluid, urine or normal vaginal discharge you’re seeing? If the smell of the discharge is different from that of the normal vaginal discharge and isn’t urine either, then it could be the amniotic fluid that’s leaking out. Monitor your own discharge and have a chat with your practitioner if the situation calls for it.
Fluid levels might be low but keep your hopes up!
Oligohydramnios – even the name sounds intimidating, doesn’t it? If you’ve been diagnosed with oligohydramnios, it might be unsettling and worrying, but don’t worry – keep your stress levels and worries in check, and try to take things easy. Remember there is always a silver lining behind every cloud – for now, do what you can and monitor your own body meticulously!