Articles and Topics
Is Extra Amniotic Fluid Around a Baby Problematic?
Q: I'm six months along in my first pregnancy. My doctor told me I'm measuring larger than I should. She wants me to have an ultrasound to see if I have extra amniotic fluid around my baby. Is having too much amniotic fluid a problem?
A: There are lots of reasons that your pregnancy could be measuring large. If your doctor suspects extra amniotic fluid, it might be that she can sense a large amount of fluid when she examines your uterus.

Amniotic fluid is the clear liquid surrounding the baby that acts as a cushion during pregnancy and allows your baby to develop normally. We can measure the amount of amniotic fluid during pregnancy using an ultrasound. If more than 25 centimeters of fluid are detected, the amniotic fluid quantity is higher than average. We call this polyhydramnios.

Polyhydramnios occurs in approximately 2 percent of pregnancies. Many women have no symptoms from carrying extra fluid, while others have abdominal discomfort and difficulty breathing due to the enlarged size of their uterus. Often we don't find a cause for polyhydramnios. However, about one-third of the time we find conditions that are linked to excessive fluid, such as maternal-fetal blood incompatibilities, chronic diabetes, birth defects that interfere with the baby's swallowing ability and fetal heart defects.

Polyhydramnios can increase the risk of certain pregnancy complications such as premature rupture of membranes, preterm delivery, placental abruption, umbilical cord accidents, poor fetal growth, stillbirth and Caesarean section. If you have excessive amniotic fluid, you will need a careful ultrasound examination of your baby, and may be tested for diabetes or other conditions. Your pregnancy will be monitored closely during the pregnancy to ensure that your baby is doing well.

It's possible that the extra amniotic fluid resolves on its own. However, in some cases specific interventions may be used to help reduce the amount of amniotic fluid. If the ultrasound shows higher than average levels of amniotic fluid, you'll want to discuss this thoroughly with your doctor.

Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education