Amniotic fluid is an important part of keeping a fetus healthy. In this article, we’ll define the term “amniotic fluid” and explain how it relates to birth injury law.
Amniotic fluid is a liquid that surrounds a fetus in the womb. When a person’s “water breaks,” it is amniotic fluid leaking from the vagina.
The fetus grows inside an amniotic sac filled with amniotic fluid that forms approximately 12 days after the beginning of the pregnancy. Amniotic fluid contains a variety of things including nutrients, hormones, antibodies, and other fluids all to keep the fetus protected and healthy. It is constantly circulating as the fetus swallows and urinates it out.
Having too little or too much amniotic fluid can be problematic for a pregnant person or the fetus.
The amniotic fluid has many functions related to the fetus’s growth and development. Some of these include:
When there is too much or too little amniotic fluid, it can be problematic. Amniotic fluid disorders include:
Oligohydramnios is when there are too low levels of amniotic fluid. This occurs in four percent of all pregnancies. Oligohydramnios is particularly problematic during the first six months of pregnancy, during which there is a higher risk of birth defects, loss of pregnancy, preterm birth, or stillbirth.
Risk factors for oligohydramnios include:
Polyhydramnios is when there are too high levels of amniotic fluid. This occurs in one percent of all pregnancies.
Polyhydramnios can be caused by:
Sometimes, amniotic fluid leaks before the water breaks. This is usually a sign that labor will begin soon. If the fluid is green, brownish, or foul-smelling, it may indicate the presence of fetal feces or an infection, in which case medical advice should be sought.
Amniotic fluid embolism (AFE), is a rare condition occurring when the amniotic fluid surrounding a fetus enters the mother’s bloodstream. This can sometimes trigger a severe allergic reaction in the mother that leads to blood clotting in the blood vessels and lungs. This leads to death in 20 - 60% of cases.
While some amniotic fluid conditions are unavoidable, others can be caused by medical malpractice. For example, an amniotic fluid embolism can be caused by some procedures, induction methods, and operations. A failure to properly manage amniotic fluid conditions or take proper precautions to account for the increased risk of secondary complications is also considered medical malpractice.
If you or a loved one have experienced complications in childbirth due to a healthcare professional’s negligence, it is recommended you speak to an experienced birth injury lawyer who will be able to help guide you through the legal process of seeking compensation.