Pregnancy Amniotic Fluid
Amniotic fluid is a clear, slightly yellowish liquid that surrounds your unborn Baby during pregnancy. This fluid consists of vital carbohydrates, electrolytes, proteins and fats all of which ensures the health, well being, and development of the baby. This fluid also consists of fetal urine and tissue fluid from the placenta and the Baby’s lungs. The fetus begins to urinate and swallow somewhere between 8 and 11 weeks and the baby can swallow up 800ml of fluid a day in late pregnancy mostly when baby practices fetal breathing.
This amniotic fluid is contained within the amniotic sac, the structure that Baby is held and lives in within your womb. This fluid or liqour amnii as it is sometimes referred to is maintained at a constant temperature to protect your Baby from heat loss. Your Baby’s temperature is slightly higher than yours.
While in the womb this fluid allows your Baby the freedom to move around, allowing for proper bone development, allowing Baby to exercise her muscles and for nerve development and also allows Baby’s body and face to grow symmetrically as the fluid equalizes pressure from the sides of the womb. This fluid also acts as a shock absorber to protect Baby from outside knocks and bumps.
The amount of amniotic fluid is very small at about 12 weeks and is the greatest at about 34 weeks into the pregnancy, when it averages 900 mL. but then unexplainably starts to decrease.
Amniotic fluid is important for proper lung development. Although your baby obtains all the oxygen and nutrients he needs from the placenta until birth, the lungs must must be able to float and bath in amniotic fluid in order to expand and develop optimally in preparation for breathing when outside the womb after birth.
Did you know that a woman’s diet can have a significant impact on the taste of the amniotic fluid for the baby. The flavour of this fluid can change from day to day, especially if the mother has consumed anything with a strong taste. It is also now known that Mother has an effect on Baby’s fluid balance. There is a strong relationship between maternal plasma or blood volume and amniotic fluid volume. It is noted that drinking 2 litres of water a day for a Mom who has low fluid levels of an unknown cause can increase the amount of amniotic fluid volume.
The amniotic fluid is constantly circulating around the baby. This fluid is absorbed continuously and replaced approximately every three hours. The inflow and outflow mechanism that keeps amniotic fluid within the normal range is not entirely clear. What we do know is that the amniotic fluid is reabsorbed by passing through the membranes of the amniotic and chorionic sacs and is passed through to the uterine blood vessels back into Mom’s circulation. Some of the amniotic fluid seeps through the umbilical cord and some is swallowed by the baby and absorbed into the intestine and lungs. Baby swallows and inhales the fluid, then releases or exhales the fluid.
The amount of amniotic fluid present during your pregnancy can give you and your doctor or midwife a good indication of the health of the pregnancy. An excessive amount of amniotic fluid, called polyhydramnios is a condition that can occur with multiple pregnancies (twins or triplets) or a baby with congenital abnormalities or abnormal development of the baby’s digestive system because remember baby needs to swallow fluid. It can also be increased if Mom develops gestational diabetes.
An abnormally small amount of amniotic fluid is known as oligohydramnios. This condition may occur with late pregnancies, ruptured membranes (that means when the amniotic sac develops a leak), It can also happen if the placenta is not functioning well and also fetal abnormalities such as kidneys that did not develop as expected because kidneys need to excrete urine.
So basically abnormal amounts of amniotic fluid may signal a problem but not always. Abnormal amounts of amniotic fluid may cause the health care provider to monitor your pregnancy more carefully sometimes to order more bed rest. Removal of a sample of the fluid, through amniocentesis, can provide information about the sex, health, and development of the fetus. I won’t go into great detail here but an amniocentesis is a test where by a thin needle is inserted into Mom’s abdomen through the uterine wall to reach and take a small sample of amniotic fluid to be examined in a laboratory for information about the health of your Baby.