What is Oligohydramnios? Risks and Treatments

By Jason Brady

Newborn baby touching his mother hand

Oligohydramnios is when there is a lower level of amniotic fluid (the fluid surrounding the baby) during pregnancy than expected.

What is oligohydramnios?

Oligohydramnios is when there is a lower level of amniotic fluid (the fluid surrounding the baby) during pregnancy than expected. The amount of expected amniotic fluid changes throughout the duration of pregnancy, however with oligohydramnios the level is outside what is considered the normal range.

Oligohydramnios is usually diagnosed during a routine ultrasound appointment or indicated during the latter stages of pregnancy when a midwife or medical professional takes fundal measurements (measurements taken to give an estimation as to the size of the baby). If the midwife or medical professional has concerns regarding the fundal measurements, they will usually refer for a growth ultrasound scan to check the size of the baby and the amount of amniotic fluid.

What are the risks of oligohydramnios?

The potential risks of oligohydramnios depend on the stage of pregnancy in which the condition is diagnosed. At the latter stages of pregnancy, an unexpected finding of oligohydramnios is less likely to have a significant impact, when compared to a diagnosis before 24 weeks of pregnancy.

A finding of reduced or absent amniotic fluid before 24 weeks gestation can mean that unfortunately, the baby’s lungs may not fully develop and that the baby’s limbs and joints may not move well. Sadly, some of these babies will not survive.mother in hospital holding and looking down on her baby

If the cause of the low level of amniotic fluid is due to a rupture of membranes before 24 weeks there is an increased risk of miscarriage and the chance of developing an infection.

It is also important for a sonographer or medical professional to try and identify the cause of oligohydramnios as if it appears that the baby’s kidneys show any abnormality, then there is an increased risk of injury to the baby. Oligohydramnios can also occur due to issues with the placenta, which can lead to poor outcomes for the baby such as very low birth weight.

An issue with the placenta can arise for a number of reasons, but there are certain factors that increase the possibility of placenta difficulties including;

The correct diagnosis of cause can help medical professionals to ensure the appropriate management and provide the best possible outcome for mother and baby. Failure to do so may result in compensation claims for oligohydramnios.

  • Specialist birth injury solicitors
  • No win, no fee claims
  • Independently recognised as experts

Treatment for oligohydramnios

It will depend on the stage of pregnancy as to the type of treatment that is offered.

If oligohydramnios is identified before the baby is due, then additional scans and monitoring are likely to be necessary. Medical professionals may also advise further treatment or monitoring depending on whether the cause of oligohydramnios is known and whether the baby is known to have any potential kidney defects.

Medical professionals are also likely to request that you give birth in a hospital or obstetric unit to ensure that you have access to medical specialists as well as any equipment that may be required. It is also likely that they will monitor the baby’s heartbeat closely throughout labour.

This is important as it will enable them to check whether the baby gets distressed, in which case they may require an emergency caesarean to ensure quick delivery and to minimise the amount of distress for the baby.

Looking for advice?

Have you been diagnosed with oligohydramnios?

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