Just as oligohydramnios is not enough of a good thing, polyhydramnios is too much of a good thing. This prenatal condition develops when there is too much amniotic fluid in the amniotic sac. And here’s the good news: polydyramnios develops in about 1% of expecting mothers. That means that the only time you’re likely to hear this word is while you’re reading this article—not in your OB or midwife’s office. However, everyone likes to have the facts, so here they are.
Your body begins creating the amniotic sac after about 12 days following conception. As the sac forms, it begins to fill with amniotic fluid. This is particularly important for several reasons. First, it protects the baby. Second, it plays a vital role in the development of your baby’s body and organs. Third, it helps the baby’s lungs learn to breathe. In most pregnancies, the amniotic fluid is pretty good at regulating itself. However in some rare cases the amniotic sac may hold too little (oligohydramnios) or too much (polyhydramnios) fluid.
Polyhydramnios often results when a fetus fails to practice breathing. As the lungs develop, the baby strengthens these muscles by swallowing and absorbing the amniotic fluid. If the baby does not reach this important milestone, the amniotic fluid may begin building up. Several issues may be at the root of the baby’s trouble including issues with the brain and nervous system as well as gastrointestinal disorders. Several rarer problems may also be the cause, which you can read about here, compiled by the National Institutes of Health.
Other documented causes include badly monitored diabetes and multiple pregnancies. However, in some cases no cause is ever found.
Risks and Treatment
The majority of diagnosed polyhydramnios causes and cases are mild. Of those diagnosed with this prenatal condition, many of the cases occur in the latter half of the second trimester and into the third. Because the build-up occurs over time, there is a very small risk associated with this type of polyhydramnios. In these mild cases, your doctor is likely to closely monitor the remainder of your pregnancy. However more serious cases can result in a shortness of breath and preterm labor. If you experience a severe case of this condition, your doctor may recommend medication or draining the excess fluid. Similar to an amniocentesis, a needle will be inserted into the uterus and then withdraw a recommended amount of fluid. There are always certain risks associated with this procedure, including preterm labor or miscarriage.
No one knows your body better than yourself. If you feel as though your belly is expanding too rapidly, or you’re experiencing shortness in breath, you should call your doctor of midwife. He or she will evaluate the size of your uterus against normal growth to see if your uterus is larger than expected. Many women with this prenatal condition experience early labor; therefore, if you suspect that you may have polyhydramnios, it’s important to seek a diagnosis as soon as possible.