Leaking Amniotic Fluid

Amniotic fluid is simply the fluid that surrounds a developing fetus when a woman is pregnant. The amniotic fluid is needed for several things including protecting the baby by suspending the fetus away from bumps of your abdomen. This fluid is also responsible for training the fetus to adopt to various survival skills that the fetus needs after birth. During your pregnancy, the fetus swallows and urinates amniotic fluid. This fluid is also breathed by the fetus. It is taken to the lungs where it helps in strengthening the respiratory muscles. Finding that you are leaking amniotic fluid while pregnant should be a source of concern as it puts the baby in danger. Mild amniotic fluid leaking is okay as the fluid is replaced, but severe leaking can cause too much fluid loss. Learn about the symptoms, causes and treatment of leaking amniotic fluid in this article.

What Is the Normal Level of Amniotic Fluid?

As stated above, the developing baby uses the amniotic fluid for several purposes and hence the levels keep rising and dropping each day. As your pregnancy progresses, the amount of amniotic fluid increases. In the beginning, you only have a few milliliters and can increase to around 800ml or 1000ml by the time you reach 36 weeks. From the 38th week, the fluid starts to reduce until you are ready to give birth to the baby.

Oligohydramnios is the term given to too little amniotic fluid surrounding the baby while too much of it is termed as polyhydramnios.   

What Are the Symptoms of Leaking Amniotic Fluid?

Often times, it is hard to a woman to clearly determine whether they are leaking amniotic fluid or not. During the last trimester, the baby can put a lot of pressure on the body and this can cause discharge from the cervix which is normal. Also, the baby places pressure on the bladder and thus can cause leaking urine. However, leaking amniotic fluid is odorless and soaks the undergarment significantly and will continue to leak. The best way to determine if your amniotic fluid is leaking is to see your doctor. 

In most cases what is thought to be leaking amniotic fluid turn outs to be leaking urine. The expectant mother can use a sanitary napkin to observe the fluid color and odor. Amniotic fluid is colorless and odorless. If the leak is colored yellow or green, it is best to see a doctor immediately. Most of the time, the doctors may need to deliver the baby immediately to prevent it from getting an infection.

What Causes Amniotic Fluid to Leak?

1. The Common Cause

Normally, amniotic fluid leaks after the pregnancy is due. The membrane raptures and this causes the fluid to leak. This is referred to as spontaneous rapture of membranes or SROM. This is what is commonly referred to as water break.

2. Premature Rapture of the Amniotic Sac

In other times, the amniotic sac can rupture or tear before it is time for delivering the baby. This causes the fluid to leak. If this happens between the 37 and 38 weeks, it is referred to as premature rupture of membrane or PROM.

When any of the above happens, the fluid may trickle out a little at a time or may gush out. Premature rupture can be due to a bacterial infection or a defect in the structure of the amniotic sac.

3. Split of the Amniotic Sac Membrane

In the cases, there may be a tiny split of the amniotic sac membrane which can cause leaking of the amniotic fluid. This tear can heal itself in due time and the leakage stops on its own.

Amniotic fluid leakage can cause difficulties in the growth of the fetus and this gives room for the bacterial infection to reach the developing baby.

How to Treat Leaking Amniotic Fluid

The kind of treatment given for leaking amniotic fluid depends on the pregnancy stage. If you have not yet reached your full term, your doctor needs to keep a close eye on your development. Contraction stress tests and non-stress tests can be done to monitor the baby’s development. If you are almost full term, most doctors may recommend delivery to curb the reducing levels of amniotic fluid.

Other treatments include:

1. Amnio-infusion

This is done during labor via the intrauterine catheter. The additional fluid aids in padding the area around the umbilical cord when delivering and this lowers the chances of having to undergo a C-section.

2. Injection of Fluid

This is done before delivery via amniocentesis. The low levels of the fluid are experienced again even a week after the procedure, but this procedure helps the doctors to assess the fetal anatomy and make a diagnosis.

3. Re-Hydration

This is done using IV fluids or oral fluids to increase the levels of the amniotic fluid.

Get to learn more about amniotic fluid and dealing with disorders of amniotic fluid in this video: