Lahey Health is now part of Beth Israel Lahey Health

by Shannon DW

Definition

Polyhydramnios is too much amniotic fluid. This fluid supports and protects the baby. It also important for the growth of the baby.

For most it will be harmless. In severe cases, too much fluid can lead to:

  • Early labor and delivery
  • Cesarean delivery
  • Increased bleeding after delivery
  • Reduced growth in the baby
  • Placental abruption—placenta separates from the uterus before it should
  • Umbilical cord prolapse—umbilical cord passes through the birth canal before the baby
Fetus in Utero, Amniotic Fluid
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Causes

The cause is often unknown. There is an imbalance in the process that makes and absorbs the fluid.

Risk Factors

The risk of polyhydramnios may increase with the following conditions:

  • Birth defects
  • Rh disease —mother and baby have different blood types
  • Diabetes in the mother
  • Pregnancy with identical twins

Symptoms

Symptoms may not occur with mild changes. When symptoms do appear, they may include:

  • Discomfort in the belly
  • Trouble breathing due to pressure on the lungs

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about any symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will ask about any symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. An ultrasound will help to:

  • View the uterus and fetus
  • Measure fluid levels
  • Look for signs of problems in the fetus
  • Look for potential causes

The doctor will use a measurement called the amniotic fluid index. It will help to determine if the fluid level is abnormal.

Treatment

Treatment of the cause may relieve the problem.

The doctor will monitor the mother and baby. Regular tests will make sure the fluid level does not continue to change. They will also help to ensure the fetus’s health. Further treatment may not be needed.

Treatment options for continued polyhydramnios that is causing problems include:

  • Delivery
  • Removal of excess amniotic fluid—drawn out through a needle
  • Medicine—to decrease fluid (cannot be used in the last 8 weeks of pregnancy)

Prevention

Polyhydramnios cannot always be prevented. Prenatal care may help to find problems before they effect the fluid level. Make sure to get proper care before, during, and after pregnancy.

RESOURCES

American Pregnancy Association  http://www.americanpregnancy.org 

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists  http://www.acog.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Women's Health Network  http://www.cwhn.ca 

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada  https://sogc.org 

References

Amniotic fluid abnormalities. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T905317/Amniotic-fluid-abnormalities . Updated March 29, 2017. Accessed April 7, 2017.

Polyhydramnios. March of Dimes website. Available at: http://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/polyhydramnios.aspx. Updated June 2012. Accessed April 7, 2017.

Practice Bulletin No. 175: ultrasound in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 2016;128(6):e241-e256.

Prenatal ultrasound screening. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115088/Prenatal-ultrasound-screening . Updated February 5, 2016. Accessed April 7, 2017.

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