Low amniotic fluid: Can it be treated?
Medically reviewed on August 4, 2017
Low amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios) is a condition in which the amniotic fluid measures lower than expected for a baby's gestational age. No treatment has been proved effective long term. But short-term improvement of amniotic fluid is possible and might be done in certain circumstances.
During pregnancy, amniotic fluid 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 — a measure of a baby's well-being.
If you have low amniotic fluid, what happens next will depend on the cause, severity, your baby's gestational age, your health and your baby's health.
Various factors can contribute to low amniotic fluid in pregnancy, including:
- Your water breaking
- 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
- Use of certain medications, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Certain health conditions in the baby, such as restricted growth or a genetic disorder
If you have low amniotic fluid and you're 36 to 37 weeks pregnant, the safest treatment might be delivery. If you're less than 36 weeks pregnant, your health care provider will review your baby's health, discuss why you might have low amniotic fluid and recommend monitoring your pregnancy with fetal ultrasounds. He or she also might recommend drinking more fluids — especially if you're dehydrated.
If you have low amniotic fluid during labor, your health care provider might consider a procedure in which fluid is placed in the amniotic sac (amnioinfusion). This is typically done during labor if there are fetal heart rate abnormalities. Amnioinfusion is done by introducing saline into the amniotic sac through a catheter placed in the cervix during labor.
Low amniotic fluid during pregnancy is a serious condition. If you have any concerns about the amount of fluid around your baby, talk with your health care provider.