What is Polyhydramnios?

Polyhydramnios is a condition that occurs during pregnancy. This specific condition is the accumulation of too much amniotic fluid in the womb. Polyhydramnios is sometimes also referred to as amniotic fluid disorder.

Amniotic fluid is the liquid that surrounds the baby in the uterus and is important in keeping the fetus growing and healthy. Specifically, because the baby is suspended in amniotic fluid, it serves to protect and cushion the baby, helps with lung, muscle, and bone development, and keeps the baby’s temperature consistent.

Polyhydramnios can develop because of either maternal or fetal health problems. Maternal diabetes, particularly if it is not controlled, is one potential cause of polyhydramnios. Problems with the fetus’s gastrointestinal tract or their central nervous system may also be a cause for polyhydramnios. Other causes can include lung development problems, other genetic defects, or if the mother is pregnant with multiple babies. There are also many instances in which the exact cause of polyhydramnios is never determined.

What are the Symptoms of Polyhydramnios?

Polyhydramnios can cause numerous symptoms. Sometimes, the only signs occur when the pregnant woman goes to in for an ob/gyn appointment and ultrasound. The doctor may notice that the uterus is much larger than it should be based on fetal age. During an examination, the baby’s body parts and limbs may be difficult to palpate as well.

There may also be other signs of polyhydramnios including maternal shortness of breath which may worsen when she is lying down. The mother may also notice a distinct reduction in urine output and could develop swelling in her extremities, swelling in the vulva, and even abdominal swelling that is not consistent with the stage of her pregnancy.  Going into premature labor is also a risk and symptom of polyhydramnios.

How is Polyhydramnios Treated?

Most of the time, polyhydramnios can be managed with rest and careful monitoring of the condition. This is because polyhydramnios may simply resolve itself. However, if the condition causes early labor (that is stopped) or causes excessive discomfort, there are medical treatments available to help.

Doctors can perform an amniocentesis or amnioreduction to drain excess fluid from the uterus. Sometimes, this procedure needs to be performed more than once, and it does carry some risks including early labor and placental abruption. There are some prescription medications that may be able to help with amniotic fluid levels as well.

Last Reviewed:
October 08, 2016
Last Updated:
August 29, 2017