- 1 What Is Amniotic Fluid?
- 2 Signs of a Leak
- 3 Causes of a Leak
- 4 Treatments for Untimely Leak
What Is Amniotic Fluid?Amniotic fluid is the liquid that surrounds your baby inside your womb. The fluid acts as a protectorate and offers your child the much-needed cushion and buoyancy for movement inside your uterus. It also helps in the development of your child’s body functions, especially the lungs and the digestive system and protects the fetus from the attack of infections. It ensures that during the development of your baby, the uterus does not contract too tightly. The fluid is saturated with essential nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, phospholipids, electrolytes and urea and has an imperative role in your baby’s development. When you’re about 12 days into the pregnancy, your amniotic sacs are formed. Your body starts producing the fluid approximately two weeks after fertilization and it grows slowly with the womb, held inside by the amniotic sac wall. Initially, the amniotic fluid is composed mainly of water (about 98%), which it takes from your body (now you know why you feel so thirsty all the time in your first trimester). The remaining 2% is cells and salt for the baby. After 20 weeks, the baby starts growing body parts like the kidneys. Now, your baby can urinate! So, it swallows the fluid, digests it and discards it as urine. This is how the baby’s body learns the digestive function. Eventually, most of your amniotic fluid will become urine (yes, that’s actually good for your baby). But it is not just urine that’s there in the fluid. It also has several other elements that are good for your baby like hormones, antibodies and essential nutrients. The amniotic sac and the amniotic fluid have several roles to play in your baby’s development.
- Your baby will move in your belly. If you’re in your third trimester, chances are you’ve already experienced that. The fluid actually makes sure that your womb is not too tightly wrapped around your baby and it can move around. This is important for healthy bone and muscle development of the baby.
- Along with taking in the amniotic fluid, the baby also breathes it in and out, which helps the baby practice breathing and develop the lung function.
- Another important role of the amniotic fluid is to maintain the temperature of the womb and keep the baby warm and cozy. It is important for the baby’s healthy development that the temperature of the uterus remains constant throughout pregnancy.
- The amniotic sac also protects the baby, in case the mother suffers an impact on her belly because of a fall or a push.
- It also supports the umbilical cord and prevents it from getting squeezed. If the cord’s functions are disrupted in any way, it may prevent proper nutrition from reaching the baby.
- The amniotic fluid is also a lubricant, which safeguards the tender limbs of the fetus and also prevents them from growing together. The growing body parts of the baby are too fragile to tolerate any friction or may develop into joined-parts as in the case of webbed feet or fingers if the amniotic fluid doesn’t function properly.
Signs of a LeakWhen you’re pregnant and your fetus is growing, there are various types of discharges that your body may experience including cervical discharge and in some cases, even amniotic fluid discharge in a very small quantity. Here’s how you can identify amniotic fluid from other types of discharges:
- Amniotic Fluid is usually colorless and odorless.
- Sometimes it may be spotted with white mucous or a bit of blood.
- It flows steadily and you cannot control its flow as in the case of urine.
- It is thin and seeps through your undergarment.
- Sometimes, it is accompanied by cramps or slight discomfort.
When It Isn’t Amniotic FluidTo be doubly sure, take a look at some of the other common types of discharges that occur during pregnancy. In either case, it is advisable that you see a doctor.
- If you only leak occasionally, like when you cough or laugh too hard, it’s most likely urine.
- If it’s odorless, white and looks like cottage cheese and if it is accompanied by itching and soreness, or if you experience burning while urinating, they are symptoms of a yeast infection.
- If it smells “fishy” and is accompanied by itching or burning then it is most likely an infection called bacterial vaginosis.
- If it is slightly odorous, yellowish and accompanied by itching, then it may actually be an STD.
- If you’re unsure of what you see and cannot determine the type of discharge.
- If you experience amniotic fluid leak anytime earlier than 37 weeks.
- If the leak is accompanied by fever.
- If the fluid has a green tinge.
- If you have any other type of unusual experience with the leak.
Causes of a Leak
Beginning of LaborThe most prominent cause of the amniotic fluid leak is the commencement of labor. When you experience the leak after 38 weeks, it’s time you call your doctor, who will prepare you for labor and delivery. This is what is known as the ‘water-break’. At full-term, it is usually not just a leak, but a full membrane rupture, or as they call it in medical terms, an SROM (Spontaneous Rupture of Membranes).
Premature RuptureIf the leak occurs prematurely, there may be a cause of alarm and a doctor should be consulted immediately. Reasons may include a bacterial infection, injury or trauma of the amniotic sac, previous cervical or uterus surgery or even bad lifestyle choices like an unbalanced diet, stress or smoking. Sometimes it is also caused by the defective structure of the amniotic sac or low levels of amniotic fluid in the sac. Premature Rupture of Membrane (PROM) usually takes place between the 37th and the 38th week of pregnancy.
Membrane SplitSometimes the two membranes that form the wall of the amniotic sac split or tear, resulting in a fluid leak. This is usually not a cause of worry as the membranes eventually rejoin and heal on their own. However, if you want to be sure that there are no other complications, you may want to visit your doctor once. Even if you’re still in your first trimester, be on the lookout for the amniotic fluid leak. This is the most crucial time for your fetus’ development and any unusual leak may lead to complications during later stages of pregnancy or the development of your child.
Treatments for Untimely LeakLeaking amniotic fluid, if not treated in time may cause problems in the baby’s development. If the leak is due to an infection it can cause complications in pregnancy in its later stages. Severe complications may even lead to miscarriages or stillbirths. Before you’re given a treatment, your doctor may conduct various tests to determine the root cause of the leak and possible cure. These tests include:
- Taking a sample of the leaking fluid and checking PH levels.
- Testing for any infections in the uterus.
- Carrying out an ultrasound to check for source and level of the leak.