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Pregnancy Problems


Hearing you have oligohydramnios can be scary. Here are answers to all your questions about having low amniotic fluid — including how to keep baby safe.

What is oligohydramnios?

Oligohydramnios is when there's not enough amniotic fluid around baby, and it could mean several things. It could mean your water has broken and some of the fluid has leaked out. Or it could be that baby's not peeing enough (yup, amniotic fluid is made of baby's pee), which could be a sign baby's not getting enough blood and nutrients from the placenta.

What are the signs of oligohydramnios?

You may be leaking fluid (yup, out of your vagina), or your OB may notice that baby’s not growing or gaining weight as quickly as he should be.

Are there any tests for oligohydramnios?

Yep. An amniotic fluid index or a maximum vertical pocket test can measure your fluid levels.

How common is oligohydramnios?

It happens in about 4 percent of pregnancies — and in 12 percent of pregnancies that go about two weeks past baby’s due date.

How did I get oligohydramnios?

Certain health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, are associated with oligohydramnios. So are pregnancies that go two or more weeks past the due date. If your membranes break early (premature rupture of membranes) or baby has a birth defect, that could also cause oligohydramnios.
How will my oligohydramnios affect my baby?

The problem with not having enough fluid is that there may not be enough cushion for the umbilical cord, so it could compress, and baby might not get adequate blood flow from it.

What’s the best way to treat oligohydramnios?

How oligohydramnios is treated will depend on what's causing it. It could be as simple as drinking more water or doing less physical activity. You may be asked to stay on bed rest. If you're close to your due date and your doctor is concerned about baby's well-being, she may choose to deliver. If you have low levels of amniotic fluid during labor, your OB may give you an amnioinfusion.

What can I do to prevent oligohydramnios?

In some cases, it may be unavoidable, but see your OB regularly to prevent any health problems that could cause oligohydramnios.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have oligohydramnios?
“Just had my 20-week ultrasound, and the radiologist said baby looks great, but I have low levels of amniotic fluid. I was referred to a perinatologist for another ultrasound, but in the meantime, I’m really worried!”

“My baby has low fluid and they’re watching it...they’re doing a fetal nonstress test Thursday, and my guess is, if he shows any kind of distress at all, they’ll deliver.”

“My fluid has gone down more. I know my doctor said once it got under eight centimeters we’d have to start talking about what to do. And if it goes under five, my baby will have to be delivered. The suspicion is that my placenta is deteriorating as a result of one of the medications I’m on.”

Are there any other resources for oligohydramnios?

March of Dimes

Plus, more from The Bump:

What is hydramnios?

What is amnioinfusion?


By Laura Riley, MD, ob-gyn, Director of Labor and Delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of You & Your Baby: Pregnancy