Amniotic fluid: the first protection

The amniotic fluid

For nine months, the baby swims like a fish in water, in a liquid that is in the mother's womb and that is able to protect it from the outside world: infections, sudden movements, etc.

He is in an environment created to perfection for him, able to protect him as much as possible and to allow him, at the same time, to to grow up.


The fetus in the nine months of pregnancy

Photos of the fetus during the nine months of pregnancy

During intrauterine life, he moves quietly in this liquid and the mother perceives his movements in a rather subtle way. In fact, thanks to the amniotic fluid, the mother's organs are also protected against the baby's movements. Furthermore, this liquid constitutes an excellent system for regulating the temperature, as it keeps it constant.

The liquid is composed ofwater (97%) and contains gods send menerals and other substances essential for the growth and maturity of the fetus. The liquid also contains the cells that detach from the skin, the baby's hair and even fat. Its quantity varies during pregnancy ranging from 20 cubic cm at the seventh week, to 300 at the 20th week and 1 liter during the ninth month. From the 38th week, the liquid will decrease: this will indicate that the baby is ready to be born.

The main function of the amniotic fluid is to act as a barrier to protection for the fetus and to provide it with the substances it needs for its development.

Read also: Polyhydramnios, too much amniotic fluid

During the first 14 weeks, the fetus absorbs the liquid through the skin, but when the kidneys begin to function, it uses them to filter the liquid it drank, excreting it in the form of urine. Despite what one might think, amniotic fluid is always maintained clean and in optimal conditions since it comes renewed every 3 hours.

Amniotic fluid contains fetal cells and microorganisms that provide a lot of information about the baby. His analysis can indicate the presence or absence of problems that could harm the unborn child. Amniocentesis and amnioscopy are two prenatal diagnostic techniques that are based on an analysis of the amniotic fluid. In amniocentesis, the fluid is withdrawn with a needle which is introduced through the mother's abdomen. This system has a reliability rate ranging from 99,4% to 100% to detect chromosomal abnormalities.

Nell 'amnioscopia, the liquid is collected through the vagina and allows you to check for the presence of meconium (which is formed with the cellular residues and fat contained in the amniotic fluid) in the last days of pregnancy. The membranes of the amniotic sac can rupture sooner than due.


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The causes can be:

  •  Premature contractions
  •  Weakness of the cervix
  •  Genital infections

In 20% of cases, pregnant women lose some of the liquid before the water breaks. This is due to small crevices that cause the liquid to come out a little at a time, and it could be confused with urine.

After the water breaks, it is very important for the woman to go to the hospital to prevent the risk of infections. If she is in the last few days of her pregnancy, it is best to cause the birth in the 24 hours following this loss. In the event that the amniotic sac has cracks in the upper part, it is usually sufficient for the woman to rest, as these should close on their own.

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In the event that the cracks are found near the cervix, it is more difficult for them to heal, so you decide what to do based on the maturity of the fetus: in particular, it is assessed whether the fetus is mature enough and able to live outside the womb or if the mother will have to stay in bed and take medicines to avoid contractions and the risk of infections.

What happens if, before delivery, the baby inhales amniotic fluid?

Inhalation of the amniotic fluid, that is its passage into the airways, causes serious problems to the newborn when it is mixed with dense meconium: it therefore contains coarse particles, which cover the pulmonary alveoli and consequently prevent the exchange of oxygen. and carbon dioxide.

The presence of meconium in the amniotic fluid occurs when, in the intrauterine life, fetal suffering is established, that is to say a hypoxia (decreased oxygen supply to the fetus) which stimulates the emission of meconium; the indicator of this phenomenon is the green color of the amniotic fluid and the result may be asphyxia at birth requiring resuscitation and, subsequently, respiratory assistance in an intensive care center. This situation could be of a certain severity and also require mechanical ventilation, that is, assistance with an automatic respirator that allows you to take care of the compromised respiratory function.


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Another condition that can occur at birth is that of a failure to adapt to extrauterine life: in the fetal life the pulmonary alveoli are full of liquids and the capillaries that surround them are of small caliber. For a normal start of breathing to occur at birth it is necessary that, with the first breaths, oxygen is introduced into the alveoli and the liquid present is removed through blood and lymphatic reabsorption; when there is a delayed reabsorption of fetal pulmonary fluid, a breathing difficulties with an inadequate gas exchange and a lack of dilation of the perialveolar capillaries. In this case we are faced with a situation of lesser seriousness which, generally, requires only oxygen therapy for a certain number of days, until the conditions for an optimal gas exchange in the lungs are achieved.

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