Diane W. Shannon, MD, MPH
Polyhydramnios is too much fluid in the amniotic sac. The amniotic sac is the water bag inside the uterus that cushions and protects your baby. It also allows normal growth and development to occur. Normal amniotic fluid levels vary. The average volume during pregnancy is almost one liter at 36-37 weeks. In severe cases, the condition can result in:
Fetus in Utero, Amniotic Fluid
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In most cases, the cause of polyhydramnios is not known. In others, causes may include:
- Birth defects
- Rh disease
—a treatable condition that occurs when mother and baby have different blood types
in the mother
- Identical twins
The presence of a known cause of polyhydramnios increases the risk of developing it.
If you have mild polyhydramnios, you may not have any symptoms. When symptoms do appear, they may include:
- Discomfort in the abdomen
- Trouble breathing due to crowding of the lungs
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your doctor will do an ultrasound to view the uterus and fetus. Measurements of the fluid levels will be taken. The fetus will also be closely looked at for any signs of problems.
Your doctor may do other tests including blood tests to check for health problems in the mother. Other tests may be done to look for problems with the fetus's health.
Your doctor will monitor you and your baby closely to make sure the condition does not get worse and that the fetus remains healthy. You will probably have more frequent prenatal visits and regular ultrasound tests. It is very important to keep these appointments.
Your doctor will suggest a treatment plan based on your due date and the amount of amniotic fluid. If treatment is needed, options include the following:
- Removal of excess amniotic fluid
- Medication may be used to decrease amniotic fluid, except in the last eight weeks of pregnancy
The only way to prevent polyhydramnios is to treat its causes if possible. Make sure to get proper care before, during, and after pregnancy. This may include:
- Talking with your doctor about medications, supplements, or herbal treatments you are using before getting pregnant
- Proper diet, adquate rest and fluid intake, taking vitamin supplements, and getting enough exercise
- Regular check-ups throughout pregnancy
- Screening tests
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Pregnancy Association
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Ultrasound in pregnancy.
High amniotic fluid levels: polyhydramnios. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at:
http://americanpre.... Accessed January 2007. Accessed June 10, 2013.
Polyhydramnios. March of Dimes website. Available at: http://www.marchof.... Updated June 2011. Accessed June 10, 2013.
Prenatal ultrasound screening. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 23, 2013. Accessed June 10, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Andrea Chisholm; Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 6/10/2013