The leaking of amniotic fluid at the end of your pregnancy signals that it is time for your baby to arrive. But, sometimes, the leak could also happen much earlier than your delivery due date.
Therefore, leaking amniotic fluid could lead to some anxious moments as you may not know whether or not it is time for your delivery. So, why does the amniotic fluid leak, does it lead to any complications and how can you address it?
What Is Amniotic Fluid?
During pregnancy, the baby is nestled safely in a fluid-filled bag or amniotic sac in the womb. The wall of the amniotic sac has two membranes- the chorion and the amnion. These membranes keep the baby sealed in the bag of amniotic fluid. The amniotic sac generates fluid after two weeks of conception . The amniotic fluid is the life support system of the fetus along with the umbilical cord and placenta.
Functions Of Amniotic Fluid:
The amniotic fluid enables the baby to breathe and swallow the liquid in the second trimester. The amniotic fluid protects the baby from being hurt. The nutrients present in the fluid aid in the development of limbs, muscles, lungs and the digestive system of the baby. They allow the baby to move, turn and kick without hindrance. They protect the baby from infection.
What Is Leaking Amniotic Fluid?
The developing fetus uses the amniotic fluid for many purposes. Therefore, the levels rise and fall every day. With the progressing pregnancy, the amniotic fluid increases from a few milliliters to 800 ml or 1000 ml by the 36th week. The fluid then starts to reduce from the 38th week until delivery time. One of the most commonly ignored problems during pregnancy is the amniotic fluid leak. The bag of the amniotic sac releases water when the amnion ruptures. When this rupture or water break occurs during the labor, it is the Spontaneous Rupture of Membranes (SROM) . However, if the amniotic sac starts leaking in the 37th or 38th week, then it is a Premature Rupture of the Membranes or PROM .
What Causes Leaking Amniotic Fluid?
The most common cause of amniotic fluid leakage is a spontaneous rupture of membranes (SROM). It is a physiological condition that is the result of an excess buildup of tension and pressure in the amniotic cavity. It is also known water bag leaking during pregnancy, and it typically marks the beginning of labor.
But there might be other causes as well, which include:
1. Premature Rupture of Amniotic Sac:
In some cases, the amniotic sac will tear or rupture before the time of delivery. It, therefore, leads to fluid leakage. If it happens in between the weeks 37 to 38, it is referred as Premature Rupture of Membrane (PROM). The causes of premature amniotic sac rupture symptoms include –
- Prior history of PROM
- Infection in the cervix, uterus or vagina
- Tension on the amniotic fluid sac that arises from twins or a large baby
- Prior surgeries on the uterus or cervical region
- Poor diet
- Poor prenatal lifestyles like alcohol abuse, drugs, smoking
- Defect in the uterus development
- Bacterial infection
2. Split In The Amniotic Sac Membrane:
In some other cases, there may be a minute split in the amniotic sac membrane that can lead to amniotic fluid leakage. It can heal itself in some time and also the leakage stops by itself.
Amniotic Fluid Leakage Signs And Symptoms:
Many-a-time, it is hard for a woman to know whether she is leaking amniotic fluid or urine. During the final trimester, the fetus exerts immense pressure on the body, and it can cause discharge, which is quite normal. The baby will also place pressure on the bladder and it can lead to urine leakage.
Due to a lack of accurate methods, urine leakage is often mistaken for an amniotic leak. This false alarm often causes paranoia in the family. Hence, it is important to ascertain the causes of wetness to avoid confusion. Here are ways to differentiate between urine and amniotic fluid leakage.
If the fluid is leaking from the vaginal area, then you have to watch for a continuous flow of fluid. Unlike urine, you cannot control the flow of amniotic fluid. The amniotic fluid will keep leaking, no matter what you do. There may be leakage or one large gush of fluid. Place a pad in your underwear as soon as you realize the leaking. After the pad soaks the fluid, take it off to check for the color and smell. If the fluid is colorless and has a sweet smell, then it is amniotic fluid.
But if you see yellow or green color, it is better to check with your doctor immediately. In most cases, the doctor will go for an immediate delivery to prevent any infections.
If you are still confused, then consult the doctors as soon as possible to discern the actual nature of the discharge.
Treatment For Amniotic Fluid Leakage:
The type of treatment for leaking amniotic fluid depends on the stage of pregnancy. Firstly, the doctor will perform tests to determine if the fluid leaking fluid is amniotic fluid or not. If it is confirmed as amniotic fluid, the doctors will perform immediate management therapy.
If the baby has developed and come to full term, the doctor will start to initiate labor within 48 hours of amniotic fluid leakage. If you have not reached your full term pregnancy, your doctor will keep a close eye on the fetus development.
1. Premature Amniotic Fluid Leakage:
If your water breaks early, it can indicate the premature leakage of amniotic fluid. In such a case, you need to call your doctor immediately. If you are late, there is a high chance of infection you may experience. Here are some tests that the doctor may take you through –
Checking Vital Signs – The temperature, pulse, blood pressure and other tests for infection are performed.
Nitrazine Paper – The pH of the amniotic fluid is less when compared to urine. The doctor will press the paper against your pad or panty to get the sample of the leaking fluid.
Observing The Vagina – The doctor will use a spectrum to open the vagina and check the emergence of the fluid. A sample is collected and observed using a microscope.
Ultrasound – An ultrasound scan is performed to check for the cause of amniotic sac rupture and check the fluid levels.
You will be put under the baby monitor to check for the baby’s heart rate and contractions. If something seems to be unusual, treatment depends upon the week of pregnancy.
Leaking amniotic fluid before 24th week;
- Admission to the hospital for constant monitoring
- It is too early for delivery, and there are chances of miscarriage
- The doctor will constantly monitor and discuss the options
Leaking amniotic fluid in between 24th to 31st week;
- Admission to the hospital
- Treatment with antibiotics
- Injecting steroids to help develop baby’s lungs
- Delivery can be delayed until 33rd week, but can be made sooner if necessary
Leaking amniotic fluid during 32nd and 33rd week;
- Baby’s lungs will be monitored for maturity
- Injecting steroids to develop baby’s lungs
- Treatment with antibiotics
- Labor can be conducted in this period
Leaking amniotic fluid from 34th week till due date;
- Admission to the hospital for monitoring the baby
- Giving antibiotics to treat the ruptured membranes
- Labor can be conducted any time after the 34th week since babies do well from then
2. Low Amniotic Fluid Levels:
Amnio-Infusion – It is performed using an intrauterine catheter during labor. The additional gush of fluid helps in padding the region around the umbilical cord during delivery. It, therefore, reduces the chance of a C-section delivery.
Injection of Fluid – It is performed before the labor through amniocentesis.The amniotic fluid levels again decrease after a week of the procedure. However, this helps the doctors check the fetal anatomy.
Re-Hydration – Oral fluids or IV fluids are injected to increase the amniotic fluid levels.
Make sure you get a routine monitoring of amniotic fluid to avoid premature delivery.
Amniotic fluid leak during pregnancy can cause severe complications. Therefore, it is imperative that the expectant mother receives proper treatment. The complications include:
- Premature leakage of amniotic fluid during the first and second trimester can lead to a miscarriage or a stillborn baby.
- It can cause problems with how well the baby and his organs develop.
- Infection can set in if you are not due yet. A mother must receive treatment in order to avoid the infection of the fetus.