A fetus needs amniotic fluid to survive. According to the March of Dimes, amniotic fluid is necessary to:
- Cushion and protect the baby
- Regulate the baby’s temperature
- Help the baby’s lungs develop
- Help the baby’s digestive system develop
- Help the baby’s muscles and bones develop
- Protect the umbilical cord which provides nourishment for the baby
The amount of amniotic fluid fluctuates during pregnancy. It typically increases until around week 36 and peaks at about one quart. After that, it begins to diminish.
At any time during your pregnancy, you could have too little amniotic fluid to adequately protect your baby at that specific point in your baby’s gestational development. This is known as oligohydramnios. It is your doctor’s responsibility to recognize this problem, to inform you of the risks, and to recommend treatment.
The Risks of Oligohydramnios
Without sufficient amniotic fluid, a baby is at risk of suffering serious health complications from:
- Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR). This is also known as fetal growth restriction. It is diagnosed when a fetus’s estimated weight is too low for its gestational age. A baby with IUGR may suffer significant health problems, including cerebral palsy and neurological issues.
- Oxygen deprivation. The lack of amniotic fluid can cause the umbilical cord to be squished or compressed. This can result in oxygen deprivation which can cause brain damage and other complications.
- Premature birth. If the amniotic fluid is too low and the baby is in danger, the baby may need to be delivered before its due date. Depending on the gestational age of the baby, the health of the baby and mother, and the risks to the baby and mother, a doctor may recommend inducing labor or delivering by C-Section. Complications from a premature birth depend on many factors, including the baby’s lung maturity at birth, birth weight, and gestational age.
- Miscarriage. A miscarriage is the death of the fetus in the womb prior to the 20th week of pregnancy.
- Stillbirth. A stillbirth is the death of the fetus, or baby, after the 20th week of pregnancy.
Low amniotic fluid can be dangerous at any stage of pregnancy, but it is particularly dangerous during the first two trimesters when an early delivery may be impossible or extremely risky.
How a Reasonable Doctor Should Diagnose and Treat Oligohydramnios
Your doctor should be monitoring your levels of amniotic fluid throughout your pregnancy. This may happen in a variety of different ways including:
- Charting your weight gain. Amniotic fluid adds weight to your body. If you are not gaining weight, it could be a sign of a number of issues, including oligohydramnios.
- Measuring the baby. If the baby is not growing as expected, it could also be a sign of a number of issues, including oligohydramnios.
- Ultrasound. During an ultrasound, the levels of amniotic fluid can be measured. The ultrasound technician can measure your amniotic fluid index to check how deep your amniotic fluid goes in different areas of your uterus and the ultrasound technician can measure the maximum vertical pocket to see what the amniotic fluid level is at the deepest part of your uterus.
While charting weight gain and measuring the baby may be used as screening methods, an ultrasound is the only way to diagnose oligohydramnios.
Treatment for low amniotic fluid levels depends on how far along you are in your pregnancy. During your last few weeks of pregnancy, your doctor may want to watch your levels more closely, but may not recommend other treatment unless your baby needs to be delivered early due to danger or distress.
In the early stages of pregnancy, oligohydramnios may be treated with amnioinfusion, bed rest, increasing the mother’s water intake, and close medical monitoring.
Was Your Baby’s Low Amniotic Fluid Birth Injury Preventable?
Low amniotic fluid happens in approximately 4% of pregnancies. Sometimes, no injuries occur. Other times, babies suffer significant injuries despite the reasonable care the mothers and babies received from their medical providers.
Then there are cases when medical providers failed to screen or test the levels of amniotic fluid, failed to advise mothers of their medical options, and failed to use reasonable care to avoid a baby’s injury. In these cases, the doctors or other healthcare providers may be negligent and they may have caused the baby’s birth injury.
Protect Your Baby’s Right to a Fair Birth Injury Recovery
When a doctor or other healthcare provider is negligent and that negligence results in a birth injury, it is important to take the appropriate legal steps to protect your child’s rights. This may include pursuing a birth injury settlement or court verdict for all of the damages that your child has suffered already and will likely suffer in the future.
We invite you to learn more about protecting your child’s rights for free and with no obligation today. Simply call or reach out to us via this website to set up a free consultation with an experienced lawyer and to learn about the difference our legal team, including our staff nurse, can make for your child and your family. You can also download a complimentary copy of our free book, Family First: How to Get the Help You Need After a Birth Injury to Your Child Happens in Kentucky, to start learning more about your rights immediately.