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Our Health Information Database is provided by A.D.A.M. the leading provider of electronic and printed information for professionals and consumers in healthcare and industry. It provides authoritative, reliable content written and reviewed by an editorial board who represent a variety of specialty areas. This board reviews and evaluates all healthcare information to ensure it is accurate, reliable, and can be used with complete confidence. And now you have access to the same authoritative, trusted clinical information relied upon by health professionals around the world.

Special Considerations


This article may contain information on medical procedures that are not recommended or endorsed by Catholic Health Partners. Promotion of this topic is prohibited by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services. In the Ethical and Religious Directives, Catholic health institutions are prohibited from condoning contraceptive practices. Married couples should be given information about natural family planning as well as the church’s teachings on responsible parenthood. The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only. It is not provided as a professional service or as medical advice for specific patients.

Polyhydramnios

Definition

Polyhydramnios is the presence of excessive amniotic fluid surrounding the unborn infant.

Alternative Names

Considerations

Amniotic fluid is a clear, slightly yellowish liquid that surrounds the unborn baby (fetus) during pregnancy. It is contained in the amniotic sac.

While in the womb, the baby floats in the amniotic fluid. Amniotic fluid surrounds and cushions the infant throughout development. The amount of amniotic fluid is greatest at around 34 weeks into the pregnancy (gestation).

The amniotic fluid constantly moves (circulates) as the baby swallows and "inhales" the fluid, and then releases or "exhales" the fluid through urine.

The amniotic fluid helps:

  • The developing baby move in the womb, which allows for proper bone growth
  • The lungs to develop properly
  • Keep a relatively constant temperature around the baby, protecting from heat loss
  • Protect the baby from outside injury by cushioning sudden blows or movements

Common Causes

Polyhydramnios can occur if the fetus does not swallow and absorb amniotic fluid in normal amounts. This can happen due to:

Polyhydramnios may also be related to increased fluid production, which occurs with:

  • Certain fetal lung disorders
  • Multiple gestation (for example, twins or triplets)
  • Hydrops fetalis

Sometimes, no specific cause for polyhydramnios is found.

Home Care

Call your health care provider if

What to expect at your health care provider's office

This condition is discovered during pregnancy. You may have noticed that your belly is getting large very quickly. You doctor or nurse measures the size of your uterus at every visit.

If your uterus is growing faster than expected, or it is larger than normal for your baby's gestational age, the doctor or nurse may:

  • Have you come back sooner than normal to re-measure
  • Perform an ultrasound

If the health care provider finds a fetal abnormality (birth defect), you may need an amniocentesis to test for a genetic defect.

Women with polyhydramnios are also more likely to go into labor early. Mild polyhydramnios that shows up in the later part of pregnancy does not often cause serious problems. More severe polyhydramnios may be treated with medications or by having extra fluid removed.

The baby will be delivered in a hospital with specialists who can provide immediate evaluation and treatment.

References

Stoll BJ. High-risk pregnancies. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 95.

Gilbert WM. Amniotic fluid disorders. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Churchill Livingstone; 2007:chap 31.

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    Review Date: 11/2/2009

    Review By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

    The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2010 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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