A Protective Bubble
The amniotic fluid is contained in the amniotic sac and provides protective cushion and temperature regulation to your unborn baby. The amniotic fluid gives your baby buoyancy, allowing him or her to float happily while life happens around him. For example, the uterine walls practice contracting and tightening, but do not put pressure on the baby because of this protective bubble. The constant temperature of the fluid keeps your baby from becoming too hot or too cold.
The buoyancy of amniotic fluid aids your little one in growth and strength. This watery environment allows the baby to practice moving around to strengthen his bones and muscles. The fluid will be used to practice breathing as your little one inhales and exhales this precious fluid. This process will help develop the lungs for breathing outside your womb.
Finally, the amniotic fluid protects baby from outside forces, such as if you were to bump your stomach, or slip and fall on the ice. Though your doctor may want to check you and the baby out, your baby will probably suffer little harm thanks to their protective bubble.
This week also marks the kidneys beginning to work, meaning your baby will begin to urinate. The urine flows into the amniotic fluid, and by week 20 it will make up half of the fluid’s contents. Though this seems a little gross for your baby to inhale and swallow urine, it’s perfectly normal and very necessary for lung and esophagus development. In fact, if there’s too little fluid to ingest, there’s definite cause for worry.
Too little amniotic fluid surrounding the baby can mean there’s a problem with the kidneys or placenta. Known as Oligohydramnios, your doctor may order further ultrasounds to measure and track the volume of amniotic fluid to insure there isn’t a problem. You may be placed on bed rest and asked to hydrate yourself with water to help try to restore the fluid amounts.
Too much amniotic fluid can be a problem as well. Also known as Polyhydramnios, too much fluid can mean a problem with the esophagus or digestive tract of your baby. It can also point to congenital birth defects and maternal diabetes. Draining and sampling of fluid, called amniocentesis, can tell a lot about the health of your baby. Gender, level of maturity and chances of birth defects or other illnesses can be discovered and assessed. The process can be risky but usually the need for sampling outweighs the problems that can occur during sampling.
Drink Your Water!
Amniotic fluid is a wondrous substance. Not only does it help your little one mature, but puncturing of the sac during birth or ‘breaking water’ stimulates labor contractions. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated with plenty of water to keep amniotic fluids at a safe, healthy level for your baby.