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Low amniotic fluid: Can it be treated?

What are the treatment options for low amniotic fluid during pregnancy?

Updated: 2022-08-09

Answer Section

Low amniotic fluid, also called oligohydramnios, is a serious condition. It happens when the amount of amniotic fluid is less than expected for a baby's gestational age. There's no treatment that can completely correct this condition. But short-term treatment options are available and can be helpful in certain situations.

Amniotic fluid is the clear liquid that surrounds your baby in the uterus during pregnancy. This 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 squeezed between the baby and the wall of the uterus. In addition, the amount of amniotic fluid reflects the baby's urine output — a measure of a baby's well-being.

If you are diagnosed with low amniotic fluid, what happens next will depend on what's causing the fluid to be low and how severe it is. Your baby's gestational age, your health and your baby's health will be taken into consideration too.

Factors that can contribute to low amniotic fluid include:

  • Your water breaking
  • The placenta peeling away from the inner wall of the uterus before the baby is born (placental abruption)
  • Certain health conditions, such as chronic high blood pressure or diabetes
  • Use of some 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 option might be delivering the baby. If you're less than 36 weeks pregnant, your health care provider typically will review your baby's health, discuss why you might have low amniotic fluid and recommend monitoring your pregnancy with fetal ultrasounds. Your provider might recommend drinking more fluids — especially if you're dehydrated. In some cases, it might be necessary to be admitted to the hospital to receive fluids through an IV.

If you have low amniotic fluid during labor, your health care provider might consider a procedure in which saline is put into your uterus via a catheter placed through the cervix. This procedure is called amnioinfusion. It's typically done during labor if the health care team detects problems with the baby's heart rate.

If you have any concerns about the amount of fluid around your baby, talk with your health care provider.