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Polyhydramnios

Amniotic fluid surrounds your unborn baby and protects it as it develops. It also helps the baby’s muscles, lungs, and digestive tract develop correctly. Your healthcare provider has found that you have too much amniotic fluid in your uterus. This is called polyhydramnios. The problem is often easily managed.

Three-quarter view of pregnant woman showing fetus in womb with too much amniotic fluid.

Causes of polyhydramnios

Polyhydramnios may be more common in women with diabetes or certain other health problems. A health problem in the baby may also be a cause. But in more than 5 out of 10 cases, the cause of the high fluid levels is not known.

Diagnosing polyhydramnios

An ultrasound is done to measure the amount of amniotic fluid in the uterus. The ultrasound uses sound waves to create detailed images of the inside of the uterus. During the ultrasound test, the amount of amniotic fluid is measured. Most often this is done using a method called amniotic fluid index (AFI) .

Managing polyhydramnios

Polyhydramnios often doesn't go away on its own. Most issues that cause polyhydramnios don't correct themselves and will need to be treated. Your healthcare provider will do regular ultrasounds to watch your amniotic fluid level. Regular prenatal care is also done to check your baby's health. In many cases, no treatment is needed. If your provider decides that treatment is needed, it may include:

  • Medicines. These help reduce the amount of fluid being produced. They are rarely used beyond 32 weeks.

  • Amnioreduction. This drains excess fluid from the uterus. This is done during amniocentesis.

  • Induction of labor. This may be done if the pregnancy is at term or beyond. Your healthcare provider will tell you more, if needed.

Follow-up care

If you or your baby has a condition that has caused the high amniotic fluid level, the condition will be treated. Sometimes an issue affecting the baby can't be treated until after delivery. Your healthcare provider can tell you more about the cause of your high amniotic fluid level. He or she can also discuss any needed treatments with you.

Call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Sudden or severe belly cramping

  • Fluid leaking from the vagina

  • Regular, rhythmic contractions

  • Baby moving less than normal

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather Trevino
Online Medical Reviewer: Irina Burd MD PhD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2019
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