An amniotic sac is a fluid-filled sac that contains hormones, nutrients and urine of the baby during pregnancy. This sac acts as a cushion to protect the baby from being harmed (injuries and bumps) as he or she grows and develops inside the mother’s womb. Let us take a closer look at this amazing sac commonly known as the “water bag” that helps us from pregnancy up to giving birth.
The amniotic sac develops during the early stage of our pregnancy and can be seen in the embryo in as early as 7 days from conception. As weeks go by, the outer layer of the sac develops into a placenta (where the exchange of oxygen and nutrients occur inside the womb).
Inside the sac is 99% water where the baby can move around or “swim” or float and the remaining 1% is for the proteins and other cellular components from the mother and the fetus, this is called the amniotic fluid. The amount of fluid increases (in a gradual manner) as the baby grows inside the mother’s womb. At 10 weeks, your baby passes small amounts of urine into the sac adding volume to the fluid and when the baby reaches 38 weeks, there will be a slight reduction in the amount of fluid until birth.
The fluid inside the amniotic sac may leak at times especially when you are closer to giving birth. However, monitoring the leakage is essential since an excessive amount of fluid leaks can also be harmful to your baby. If unresolved, this may cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, or other birth defects or difficulty during childbirth. The excessive decrease or insufficient amount of amniotic fluid is called oligohydramnios and the opposite of it is polyhydramnios.
When a mother is ready to deliver, she may feel a trickle of water or an unstoppable gush of water from her vagina. This means that her water bag has broken and anytime now her baby will be on its way. When this happens to you, call your doctor or midwife right away. You might be advised for admission without delay to a hospital or any childbirth facility.
How to check if your amniotic fluid in the sac is adequate?
Since your amniotic sac serves as protection for your baby, the fluid inside it must be adequate in amount or volume. The normal volume of the fluid starts at 60 mL when the baby is at 12 weeks of gestation and up to 1200 mL in 38 weeks’ time.
Frequent water leaks may cause inadequacy in the amniotic fluid volume. Your doctor can measure it using an ultrasound machine. They can monitor the level by determining the Amniotic Fluid Index (it must not be less than 5 cm) or the Maximum Vertical Pocket (not less than 2 cm). Normally, leaked amniotic fluids (three fourths of its amount) can be replaced within an hour. This is to ensure safety for the growing baby. However, the fluid replacement depends on the health condition of the mother. In case of inadequacy, your doctor can provide you with treatment options. That is why, constant prenatal check-ups are very important during pregnancy. You should visit your doctor once a month during the first and second trimester, twice a month when you have reached your seventh and eighth month of pregnancy and every week when you are in your ninth month.
What to note when you have fluid leakage?
Whenever you experience fluid or water leaks, it is important to observe or note the characteristics of your discharges. This can help you identify the amniotic fluid from urine or other vaginal discharges, thus, preventing you from stress unnecessarily. Note of its color, smell and texture. Remember, the amniotic fluid is a clear fluid which sometimes can be blood-tinged or pale-straw in color. It can soak your underwear and is odorless. A vaginal discharge, on the other hand, is whitish or yellowish in color while your urine is obviously, yellow in color.
There are several methods that you can do by yourself to distinguish amniotic fluid from urine and other discharges. The simplest is to get a panty liner, a napkin or a tissue and place it on your wet underwear. Let it dry for half an hour and check its color. If it turns yellow, then it is probably your urine leaking because of the pressure on your bladder by your growing belly. Furthermore, a greenish or brownish-yellow in color discharges means your baby already passed feces inside your womb. Prompt medical attention is a must since this can mean serious complications that can harm your baby. In addition, make note of the quantity of leaks. If you feel that it is too much, go straight for a check-up since ruptured membranes can be the point of entry for bacteria which can cause infection.
As an expectant mother, it is better if you stay aware of what’s going on in your body during pregnancy. We may not know or become an expert with everything or the “technicalities” of pregnancy; at least we have known the important things to do (the basics) or any conditions to watch for to avoid any complications during pregnancy. Take care of your health. Eat only nutritious food, drink plenty of water, exercise every day, take your vitamins, maintain good hygiene and listen to your doctor’s advice. Remember, a healthy pregnancy leads to a safe and healthy delivery.
Author: Jasmine Smith RN