Amniotic fluid protects your baby while it is in the womb: it provides cushioning, protects against infection, prevents the umbilical cord becoming compressed, maintains a constant temperature and allows your baby to move around so they can develop properly.


It is initially made up of water provided by the mother, but after 20 weeks the primary substance becomes foetal urine, which is not harmful to the baby. In fact, your little one will start to breathe and swallow the fluid in about the second trimester.


1. What does having low amniotic fluid mean?

Low amniotic fluid, or oligohydramnios as it is medically known as, is defined by the following:

  • Amniotic fluid volume of less than 500 ml 
  • Maximum vertical pocket of less than 2 cm
  • Amniotic fluid index of less than 5 cm

2. What causes low amniotic fluid?

There are a number of reasons why you might be experiencing low amniotic fluid, including:

  • Chronic high blood pressure
  • Your waters have broken
  • Placental abruption – when the placenta comes away from the wall
  • Birth defects such as a kidney or urinary tract problem
  • Genetics
  • Pre-existing diabetes

3. What are the symptoms of low amniotic fluid?

4. What are the risks?

While it is important to keep in mind that every women is different, oligohydraminos can cause the following complications:


If it occurs in the second trimester:

If it occurs in the third trimester

What treatment is available?

It is possible to increase the amount of amniotic fluid by injecting saline into the amniotic sac in a process called amnioinfusion. However, this is generally done to relieve pressure on the umbilical cord during labour or to enhance an ultrasound image.


If you are diagnosed with low amniotic fluid, the doctor may conclude that early delivery is the safest treatment.

    • You are leaking fluid from your vagina
    • You are not gaining enough weight
    • The baby is not growing at the correct rate
    • Birth defects
    • Miscarriage
    • Premature birth
    • Stillbirth
    • The umbilical cord may become squeezed during labour
    • The baby may grow slowly
    • A higher chance of a Caesarean



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