<strong>What Causes Polyhydramnios (Excess Amniotic Fluid) During Pregnancy?</strong>

What Causes Polyhydramnios (Excess Amniotic Fluid) During Pregnancy?

9 Nov 2022 | 5 min Read

Sudeshna Chakravarti

Author | 487 Articles

Amniotic fluid is an integral part of pregnancy, as it keeps your baby at a constant, cozy temperature, and acts as a cushion to protect them in the womb. It also helps in the development of your baby’s digestive tract, lungs, and muscles. 

However, sometimes, your body produces too much amniotic fluid, leading to a condition called polyhydramnios. While polyhydramnios is usually considered mild and resolves on its own, it can in some cases lead to pregnancy complications. Read on as we give you more insight into this condition, its symptoms, possible causes, and treatment methods.

What is Polyhydramnios?

What is Polyhydramnios?
Polyhydramnios can be diagnosed during your routine prenatal checkup via an ultrasound / Image credit: Freepik

Polyhydramnios or hydramnios is a condition that causes an excess build-up of amniotic fluid around your growing baby in the womb. 

The normal volume of amniotic fluid should be between 500-1000 ml. However, if it goes beyond this level, there could be certain complications in your pregnancy. 

Possible Causes Of Polyhydramnios

In most cases, it’s unclear why your amniotic fluid level increase. However, there could be some possible causes contributing to this condition.

  • Diabetes: If you had diabetes before pregnancy or have gestational diabetes during the current one, then you could be at a higher risk of experiencing polyhydramnios.
  • Birth defects: Congenital abnormalities or conditions related to your baby’s heart and lungs may also lead to an increase in fluid build-up around your baby, causing polyhydramnios.
  • Twin-to-twin syndrome: This is a rare condition, where your twins share a placenta in the womb. The baby that sends blood to its twin will have less amniotic fluid, however, the baby that receives will have a high volume of amniotic fluid around them, causing an increase in the risk of polyhydramnios.
  • Other conditions: In some cases, other conditions like fetal anemia, viral infections, and kidney or heart problems can also be responsible for increased amniotic fluid levels, leading to polyhydramnios. 

Symptoms of Polyhydramnios

Excess build-up of amniotic fluid can put additional pressure on your uterus and nearby organs. This could cause the following symptoms.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort in your stomach
  • Swelling in your abdominal wall and lower extremities
  • Contractions
  • Change in fetal position
  • An enlarged uterus

Risks Related to Polyhydramnios

Polyhydramnios is mostly mild, but in some cases, it can turn severe as well. Severe polyhydramnios is associated with certain complications during pregnancy. However, a timely diagnosis of this condition can prevent the following risks.

  • Early rupture of your amniotic sac
  • Too much fluid can expand your uterus and increase the risk of preterm labour
  • Placental abruption (detachment of the placenta from the uterus) could occur due to leakage of amniotic fluid.
  • Umbilical cord prolapse 
  • Heavy bleeding after childbirth
  • Stillbirth

Diagnosis Of Polyhydramnios

Based on the symptoms displayed and the checkup, your healthcare provider will recommend a fetal ultrasound. If your doctor suspects an excess of amniotic fluid, then they will suggest a detailed ultrasound to confirm your condition. There are two ways of measuring the level of your amniotic fluid. 

  • The latest and most accurate method is called the DVP, which measures the deepest vertical pocket of your amniotic fluid. The normal range is considered greater than 2 cm, but less than 8 cm.
  • The second method is called the AFI, or the amniotic fluid index, which is the sum of the largest pockets of different parts in your uterus. In case this measurement is greater than 25 cm, then excess amniotic fluid volume or polyhydramnios is suspected.

How is Polyhydramnios Treated?

How is Polyhydramnios Treated?
Your doctor will recommend a treatment based on your condition and treatment method / Image credit: Pexels

This condition rarely requires medical treatment. However, frequent ultrasounds are done to monitor the amniotic fluid index and your baby’s health. In severe cases of polyhydramnios, a few treatment methods may be recommended by your healthcare provider, depending on your symptoms and gestational age.

  • Medications: Based on the cause of excess amniotic fluid in your uterus, your doctor will prescribe a medicine to reduce the fluid. For instance, if polyhydramnios has occurred due to a fetal condition, then your doctor will prescribe a medicine to resolve that condition. This in turn will adjust your amniotic fluid level.
  • Amnioreduction: In this procedure, your doctor will insert a needle inside your uterus to drain out the excess amniotic fluid. It may cause a little discomfort in your abdomen, but don’t worry, your doctor will only recommend it if medications fail to work.
  • Surgery: If any complications occur that seem risky for the mum and baby, then the doctor will schedule an early delivery.


High amniotic fluid, also known as polyhydramnios is a pregnancy concern, discovered during prenatal checkups. While in the majority of cases, the cause of polyhydramnios remains unknown, additional factors like gestational diabetes or congenital abnormalities can contribute to this condition. If you experience any symptoms of polyhydramnios as we discussed above, seek guidance from your doctor immediately, and start proper treatment methods to reduce any risks or dangers. 

Also read:

Pregnancy symptoms: Here’s a list of pregnancy symptoms that you experience during the early stages of pregnancy.

Ovulation: In this post, we have compiled everything you need to know about ovulation and your most fertile days.  

Cover Image Credit: Freepik.com