There are various parameters that determine the health of the baby and the mother during pregnancy, including the weight, heart rate and head circumference of the baby, weight gain of the mother, etc. These help in predicting the outcome of pregnancy, and to check if any medical intervention is required. One such parameter of utmost importance is the amniotic fluid index. Research shows that amniotic fluid index by itself too can predict pregnancy outcome.
Amniotic fluid is a clear or light yellow colored liquid that surrounds the fetus in the uterus i.e. the womb. It is formed within the first 12 days of conception within the amniotic sac. It mainly consists of water, fetal waste materials, and fetal skin cells. The amniotic fluid plays a vital role in the development of the baby. The amount of amniotic fluid increases as the pregnancy advances and is maximum between 34 to 36 weeks of pregnancy at around 800 ml. As the delivery date approaches, it falls down to approximately 600 ml. If the quantity of amniotic fluid is too much or too less, it may lead to complications.
The quantity of the amniotic fluid is measured by an index known as the amniotic fluid index. This index reflects the baby’s development and growth during pregnancy. The amniotic fluid index is usually denoted in centimeters and is calculated during an ultrasonography of the uterus. A procedure commonly adopted by doctors is the ‘amniotic fluid index single deepest pocket’ and the ‘four quadrant amniotic fluid index’ method. The 4 quadrant amniotic fluid index technique involves calculating the deepest pocket in each of the 4 quadrants to get the amniotic fluid volume. Normally the amniotic fluid index must remain between 8 to 24 cm.
When the amount of amniotic fluid is below 500 ml, the condition is known as oligohydramnios. This is when the amniotic fluid index is less than 5 cm, or the fluid volume is less than 500 ml. Oligohydramnios can occur anytime during pregnancy, but it is most common during the last trimester. Amniotic fluid is necessary for the building of the baby’s body tissues like muscles, lungs, limbs and the digestive system. A diagnosis of oligohydramnios increases the risk of complications such as premature birth, miscarriage, stillbirth and various birth defects in the newborn. Certain factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia increases the chances of oligohydramnios. An expectant mother with oligohydramnios needs to be closely monitored throughout pregnancy.
If the amount of amniotic fluid is more than normal, and the AFI is above 24 cm, it is termed as polyhydramnios. It may lead to symptoms like edema, difficulty in breathing and excessive gain in weight. Certain fetal conditions, diabetes in the mother, and infectious conditions may also lead to an increase in amniotic fluid.
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Disclaimer: The information in the article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor.
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