What is Oligohydramnios

What is Oligohydramnios
Oligohydramnios is a condition that occurs when there is a lower-than-normal amount of amniotic fluid surrounding a developing fetus in the uterus. This can have serious implications for both the mother and the baby, and expectant parents need to be aware of the risks and symptoms associated with the condition. If you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant, it's essential to understand the risks and potential complications associated with oligohydramnios. That’s why we’ve gathered valuable information on what oligohydramnios is, what causes it, how it’s diagnosed, and most importantly, treated. We'll also discuss the potential long-term effects of oligohydramnios on a baby's health and offer advice for parents on how to care for a baby affected by the condition.

What Is Oligohydramnios?

Oligohydramnios is a condition in which there is a lower-than-normal amount of amniotic fluid surrounding the developing fetus in the uterus. Amniotic fluid is a clear, slightly yellowish liquid that fills the sac surrounding the fetus. It plays a crucial role in the development of the fetus, as it provides protection and allows the baby to move around freely in the uterus. Amniotic fluid is produced by the fetus's kidneys and lungs, as well as by the placenta. The volume of amniotic fluid increases throughout pregnancy, reaching a peak at around 34 weeks. After that, the amount of fluid gradually decreases as the fetus grows and takes up more space in the uterus. Oligohydramnios is usually defined as a volume of less than 500 ml of amniotic fluid at term. However, the threshold for diagnosis may vary depending on the gestational age of the fetus. There are two types of oligohydramnios: chronic and acute. Chronic oligohydramnios occurs when there is a long-term decrease in amniotic fluid, while acute oligohydramnios occurs suddenly and is often associated with fetal distress. In both cases, oligohydramnios can have severe implications for the mother and the baby.

Oligohydramnios Risk Factors & Prevention

While oligohydramnios may not always be preventable, there are steps that expectant parents can take to reduce their risk of development including taking steps to have a healthy pregnancy. Risk factors for oligohydramnios include maternal age, multiple gestations, chronic hypertension, preeclampsia, diabetes, smoking, and drug or alcohol use. Expectant mothers with any of these risk factors should prioritize regular prenatal checkups and diligently manage their health. Ways to prevent oligohydramnios include the following:
  • Eliminate all smoking, drugs, and alcohol
  • Manage any chronic health conditions
  • Focus on staying hydrated

What are Oligohydramnios Symptoms?

Understanding the symptoms of oligohydramnios is vital for seeking diagnosis and, therefore, treatment. Be on the lookout for any of the following symptoms, and schedule a visit with your healthcare provider if you suspect anything is wrong.

Maternal Symptoms of Oligohydramnios

  • Uterine contractions
  • Abdominal pain
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Preterm labor

Fetal Symptoms of Oligohydramnios

  • Poor fetal growth
  • Fetal distress
  • Low Apgar score at birth
  • Birth defects

Risks Associated with Oligohydramnios

  • Placental insufficiency
  • Premature rupture of membranes
  • Preterm labor
  • Cesarean delivery
  • Stillbirth

How to Diagnose and Screen Oligohydramnios

As you can tell, oligohydramnios is a serious condition. Discussing your concerns with your healthcare provider and reviewing any risk factors is a foundational part of a sound defense against this unwanted health issue. However, if you’re experiencing symptoms, it’s crucial to understand the screening and diagnostics process. Diagnosing oligohydramnios typically involves a combination of screening and diagnostic tests. In some cases, the condition may be detected during routine prenatal checkups through a fundal height measurement or ultrasound. A non-stress test may also be performed to evaluate the fetal heart rate and monitor for signs of distress. If oligohydramnios is suspected, diagnostic tests such as the amniotic fluid index (AFI), single deepest pocket (SDP), or maximum vertical pocket (MVP) may be used to confirm the diagnosis. These tests involve measuring the amount of amniotic fluid present in the uterus using ultrasound. During a diagnosis, expectant parents can expect to undergo an ultrasound scan to assess the amount of amniotic fluid present in the uterus. When your healthcare provider reviews the results, they’ll be able to cover potential treatment options to minimize any negative impacts.

What are Oligohydramnios Treatments?

Treatment options for oligohydramnios depend on the severity of the condition and the gestational age of the fetus. In some cases, medical interventions may be necessary to increase the amount of amniotic fluid present in the uterus. Different oligohydramnios treatments can include the following:
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids
  • Amnioinfusion, which is the process of introducing sterile fluid into the uterus
  • Other medications, such as prostaglandins
  • Lifestyle changes including increased fluid intake, more rest, and reduced physical activity
  • Frequent monitoring of the mother and fetus’s health by your healthcare provider
If the oligohydramnios is severe or there are concerns about fetal distress or maternal complications, delivery may be recommended. The decision to deliver will depend on the gestational age of the fetus, the severity of the oligohydramnios, and any other factors that may be affecting the health and safety of the mother and fetus. In some cases, the delivery may be induced, or a cesarean section may be performed to ensure the health and safety of the mother and baby. It's essential for expectant parents to discuss all treatment options with their healthcare provider and to weigh the risks and benefits of each option carefully.

Other Ways to Protect Your Baby’s Health

Every parent wants their baby to experience the utmost in health and vitality throughout their lives, which is why pre and post-natal health checkups are crucial for the well-being of your child. At AlphaCord, we’re passionate about providing families with the potentially lifesaving benefits of cord blood banking so parents can rest assured knowing they have valuable stem cells available should they ever need them. To learn more about the benefits of cord blood banking and how to get started, download your free info guide.