Low Amniotic Fluid in Pregnancy causes Signs and Treatment

Amniotic fluid is a colorless liquid which surrounds a baby in the uterus. It cushions his or her body against the constant bumps as mom moves throughout her day. It also serves to prevent infection, allow movement, and aid development. The liquid is primarily composed of baby’s urine and some cells, which have been shed. One of the more common maladies, particularly during the final phase of pregnancy is that the level of amniotic fluid may begin to drop.

The official term for low amniotic fluid is oligohydramnios. This condition can exist to varying degrees and is often assigned a score, which correlates with the amount of liquid present. An average of the amount of fluid in four separate regions of the uterus will yield the amniotic fluid index or AFI. Normal levels will range between 5 and 25 during the third trimester of pregnancy. An AFI below five may be cause for concern. The reasons behind low amniotic fluid may vary. 


In some cases, the membranes have prematurely ruptured, or torn and begun to leak. A dysfunction of baby’s kidneys or urinary tract may prevent the secretion of urine. A similar abnormality with the placenta may cause it to stop providing your baby with the nutrients he or she needs to produce more fluid.

Placentas of baby’s that are overdue are particularly vulnerable, as they tend to wear out. Troubles with the mother may lead to low amniotic fluid levels. This condition has been linked to eating disorders, diabetes, and dehydration. Hypoxia or high blood pressure may also play a role. In addition, those carrying twins have been shown to be particularly vulnerable.


In most cases mother is unaware that her amniotic fluid level has dropped. The only sure symptom is the observation of leaking amniotic fluid from the vagina. More often, women are notified of the condition by their doctor after a routine ultrasound. 
Some early indicators may be reduced movements of baby within the womb, or measuring small for your stage of pregnancy. High blood pressure, preeclampsia, diabetes, lupus, or going beyond your due date will signal your health care provider to monitor your fluid levels more closely.


The most common treatment initially imposed upon women diagnosed with low amniotic fluid is a combination of bed rest and increased water intake, either orally or through an IV. In some cases, this is enough to replenish or maintain fluid levels enough to safely reach full term. A doctor may utilize a non-stress, or contraction test to ensure that the baby is sufficiently active and to detect potential signs of distress. The largest concern associated with low amniotic fluid is the risk of the umbilical cord becoming compressed by contractions, or by the baby itself.

If the ailment is detected near the end of pregnancy, most doctors will choose to induce labor or recommend a c-section. In cases when the mother is not far enough along to merit the risk of early induction, an amniofusion may be performed. Amniofusion is a method of adding fluids directly into the amniotic sac through a catheter inserted into the uterus. This may yield extra time for baby to grow and develop within mother’s nurturing womb.