What is amniotic fluid?
Amniotic fluid is the liquid that surrounds the baby inside the uterus during pregnancy. It is very important for the development of the fetus, as well as keeping the baby hydrated and protected throughout the pregnancy.
What is it made of?
In the first weeks of pregnancy, amniotic fluid is primarily composed of water. Around the 20th week and beyond, much of the fluid is composed of the baby’s own urine. In addition, other nutrients are also part of the composition, mainly hormones and antibodies.
What is amniotic fluid for?
During pregnancy, the fetus develops inside the amniotic sac, which is located inside the uterus. This is the sac that usually ruptures during labor, after contractions. The amniotic sac is filled with amniotic fluid, which is essential for the development of the baby, as it:
- Maintains the baby’s ideal stable temperature
- Contributes to the growth and development of the baby’s lungs
- Helps in the development of the digestive system, as the baby swallows the fluid
- Helps to develop/strengthen muscles and bones
- Prevents the umbilical cord from being compressed inside the uterus
The different colors of the amniotic fluid and what they mean
Normally, amniotic fluid should be clear as an egg white, with a slightly yellowish tint. The fluid should also not have a strong, unpleasant odor. The clear color and neutral smell is what characterizes a healthy fluid.
If the sac ruptures and the amniotic fluid has a dark color, more towards brown, and a denser consistency, in addition to noticing a strong, unpleasant odor, you should go to the hospital as soon as possible. This may indicate excessive meconium (poop) in the fluid, which can be breathed in by the baby and indicate a possible fetal distress. This is one of the cases in which a cesarean section is justified.
How to know if I'm leaking?
Many women are confused when they realize that they are losing fluid “slowly”, since, in general, there is a common idea that the sac always ruptures and the fluid gushes out all at once. This is not always the case. It is possible to lose fluid slowly and this is quite common. We call this “ruptured sac”.
Generally, if a pregnant woman is losing fluid, she may notice the following signs:
- Wet panties from time to time (more than 1x per day);
- Feeling of loss of urine, warm and in small quantity;
- Cannot prevent the fluid from escaping even when trying to “hold it” by contracting the pelvic muscles;
- The baby moves less frequently;
In addition, urine has a characteristic smell, while amniotic fluid, as mentioned earlier, should be odorless and almost transparent.
What to do if your amniotic fluid is leaking?
First, for your comfort, you can use a daily pad to protect your panties so you don’t have to change them all the time. Regarding labor, you don’t need to rush to the hospital immediately. If you are feeling well and have not been losing fluid for a long time, you can wait for the labor to progress at home.
However, it is important to have professional follow-up to auscultate the baby and monitor the mother’s blood pressure. In this case, instead of going straight to hospitalization (if you plan to have the baby in the maternity ward), you can opt for an appointment with a nurse or obstetrician to assess and observe the fetus.
How do you know if you run out of amniotic fluid?
You may have heard some stories about dreadfuls “dry births”. This is an old excuse used to intimidate women and convince them to have a cesarean section instead of their desired natural birth.
In reality, just like the mucus plug, amniotic fluid is constantly being replenished. And you can help this process by drinking more water and getting adequate rest, which helps the body restore amniotic fluid levels.
In the same vein, dehydration can lead to a drop in amniotic fluid levels, which can not only negatively impact the development of the baby, but can also lead to premature labor. In some rare clinical cases, it may be necessary to take medication to help maintain amniotic fluid levels.
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