Abnormal fluid levels in the uterus may put a baby’s life at risk. Failure to properly address cases of abnormal amniotic sac conditions could further put a developing fetus’s life at risk and may constitute medical negligence. Individuals in Cleveland may, therefore, be able to pursue a case of medical malpractice.
Overview of Amniotic Fluid and Its Purpose
About 10 to 12 days after conception, the amniotic sac (which fills with fluid) begins to form. In the first few weeks it is made up of water and will eventually also contain urine from the developing baby. The amount of fluid increases as the pregnancy goes on.
The amniotic fluid levels hit a high around the 32nd or 33rd week. This results in about a quart of amniotic fluid, and it usually remains at roughly this amount until the baby reaches full-term (between 37 and 40 weeks).
Amniotic fluid surrounds and protects the baby while inside the mother’s uterus. It also plays a role in the baby’s growth and development, as it contains hormones, nutrients, and necessary antibodies to fight diseases. Not until the second trimester does the baby begin to breathe in and swallow the fluid.
This is necessary as it significantly affects development in the gastrointestinal system and the lungs. Once the baby begins to move, the surrounding fluid assists in the development of bones and muscles. Cases of abnormal amniotic sac fluid levels could result in complications.
Abnormal Fluid Levels in the Uterus: Levels Are Too Low
The condition oligohydramnios is when the amniotic fluids are too low. Although abnormal amniotic sac fluid levels can be too low at anytime, it is generally a problem during the last trimester.
According to the March of Dimes, this affects approximately four percent of pregnant women. However, for those women whose pregnancies go past their due date (into the 42nd week), about 12 percent of women will develop oligohydramnios.
Oligohydramnios may affect the baby’s development, which may bring with it the risk of birth defects affecting the lungs and limbs (such as clubfeet). It may also result in miscarriage or premature birth. Complications are also increased during labor and delivery, such as umbilical cord compression that deprives the baby of oxygen, which can cause stillbirth.
The following may be risk factors for oligohydramnios:
- certain blood pressure medications;
- premature amniotic sac rupture;
- health conditions in the mother (lupus, high blood pressure, pre-gestational diabetes);
- birth defects of the urinary tract or kidney that may cause the fetus to produce lower levels of urine; and
- pregnancy that goes two or more weeks past the due date.
Abnormal Fluid Levels in Uterus: Levels are Too High
When abnormal amniotic sac fluid levels are too high, this results in a condition called polyhydramnios. The March of Dimes indicates that of the pregnancies affected by this condition, approximately 20 percent have a birth defect and some birth defects can actually be the cause of polyhydramnios.
For example, if the fetus has defects that affect fetal swallowing, the fetus may not swallow enough fluid to balance the production of amniotic fluid, which can result in increased levels and abnormal fluid levels in the uterus.
In the mother, one potential complication from polyhydramnios is postpartum hemorrhaging. With the baby, complications of abnormal levels of fluid in the uterus that are too high include placental abruption (placenta partially or totally separates from the uterus while baby is still in the womb) or limited growth. This condition may also require cesarean delivery and premature delivery.
The following may be risk factors for polyhydramnios:
- birth defects;
- fetal infection;
- Rh incompatibility;
- twin-twin transfusion syndrome (identical twin pregnancy where one fetus gets too little blood flow and the other too much); and
- unknown (in about two-thirds of the cases).
Can I File a Birth Injury Claim?
If you have questions about your child’s cerebral palsy, attorneys Chris Mellino and Tom Robenalt welcome you to contact our Cleveland office for a free consultation. You may also download or request Chris’ free, easy-to-read guide to filing a claim in Ohio.