The amniotic fluid is the fluid which surrounds the baby in utero, which provides a cushion that protects the baby from injury and allows room for growth, movement and development. Amniotic fluid also keeps the umbilical cord from being compressed between the baby and the uterine wall. In addition, the amount of amniotic fluid reflects the baby's urine output -- which is an important measure of a baby's well-being.
Amniotic fluid is produced soon after conception, and as the baby grows, it will be able to move in the womb with the help of this fluid.
In some cases the amniotic fluid may measure too low, a condition known as Oligohydramnios, which can prove to be dangerous. The condition can happen at any time during pregnancy, but it is most common during the last trimester, especially if a woman goes past her due date.
Low amniotic fluid can be caused by:
* Your water breaking early (premature rupture of the amniotic sac);
* The placenta peeling away from the inner wall of the uterus -- either partially or completely -- before delivery (placental abruption);
* Certain health conditions in the mother, such as chronic high blood pressure or high blood pressure accompanied by excess protein in the urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy (preeclampsia);
* Use of certain medications, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors;
* Certain health conditions in the baby, such as restricted growth, a kidney or urinary tract problem, or a genetic disorder.
Since the amniotic fluid is essential for the development of muscles, limbs, lungs, and the digestive system, low fluid could be a major problem in early pregnancy. This could lead to increased change of miscarriage or stillbirth, or problems with the foetus' organs.
If you're diagnosed with low amniotic fluid, your doctor will carefully monitor your pregnancy to help prevent complications. He or she might recommend drinking more fluids -- especially if you're dehydrated.
It's possible to temporarily increase the amount of amniotic fluid with a procedure known as amnioinfusion, in which saline is instilled into the amniotic sac.
-- Mayo Clinic