Amniotic fluid is the liquid that is within the amnion or the membrane that holds the baby. Also known as waters. So when you hear the term her water broke, that is amniotic fluids. It serves as a cushioning to protect baby from external movements for shock absorbtion. This fluid also does a lot more. It also a source of nutrients, water, and biochemicals from mom to baby. As the baby grows, the fluid allows free movement allowing baby to do those acrobatic acts they like to do in utero. This helps their muscles and bones to develop. Also, when baby swallows this assists in the baby’s gastrointestinal development. It also helps keep baby’s body temperature just right.
What’s it made of?
It’s made mostly of water and electrolytes early in pregnancy. Later on it also contains, proteins, carbs, lipids, phospholipids, and urea. These “ingredients” help your baby in its development. So your body is making baby Gatorade of sorts. Plus it that’s where the baby’s urine comes from along with meconium (black sticky first poo after birth). Yes there is pee in there. It’s totally fine. How much is in there? Well, it increases with the growth of baby. It peaks at about 800 ml and decreases to 400 ml by week 42.
Where does it all come from?
It comes from moms plasma and later in the pregnancy baby contributes by urinating. This is why staying hydrated is key in pregnancy. You should drink at least 8 cups a day. You have an increase blood volume and are producing amniotic fluid. By the time of the birth you will have about 1 liter of water gushing out. Little known fact, the majority of births don’t see the waters break until baby is actually emerging. It is not as common to have a giant gush of waters and then baby. It happens, just not as often as people (the media) thinks it does.
Did you know that amniotic fluid can tell us a story. It is used to test for diseases and genetic anomalies. The amount excess or shortage can signal problems with baby or signal maternal issues. In labor, the color will signal whether baby has had a bowel movement which may or may not signal fetal distress.
To Break or Not to Break
Breaking of the water as mentioned before can be spontaneous in active labor or at the birth of baby. Sometimes a labor has gone on for a while with no “progress” and the provider may suggest rupturing your membranes. They may use a amnihook or amnicot. The amniohook kind of looks like a crochet hook. It is inserted and used to break the waters. The finger cot is the same except its a little finger cot with a bit of a hook on it. It does not hurt and mom may feel relief at the breaking of the waters. Some providers feel that this potentially will speed up progress. There is no real proof it actually does. It can potentially make it harder to cope with the labor pains since now instead of a cushion of water on the cervix, the baby’s head is not directly on the cervix, leading to the need for pain medication. It can be helpful if labor has been long and the provider wants to make sure there is no meconium is in the fluids. All in all though, it seems like it’s best to leave things alone if possible.
So that is it. That is a brief run down on amniotic fluids. Have a fun fact you’d like to share please comment. Did your water break before the baby came, leak during labor, or gush right at baby’s arrival?