What Is Amniotic Fluid?

Pregnancy, Trimesters and Fetal Development
Pregnant woman holding ultrasound scan photo of baby over belly

Although newborns are more familiar with amniotic fluid than the rest of the general population, they are unable to speak, which is why when you ask them what amniotic fluid is, they’d probably just point you to an informational website such as the March of Dimes, where you would learn that amniotic fluid is the fluid that surrounds a baby while in the womb. You’d also learn that it’s very important for your baby’s muscular/skeletal and lung development.

Amniotic fluid keeps a baby healthy. A newborn may think longingly about time spent floating amid his amniotic home, but may not realize that amniotic fluid played an important role in keeping him healthy. Here’s how:

  • Amniotic fluid protects the baby.
  • Amniotic fluid maintains a steady temperature around the baby.
  • Because the baby breathes it in, amniotic fluid helps the baby’s lungs develop.
  • Because the baby swallows it, amniotic fluid helps the baby’s digestive system.
  • Because the baby can move around in it, amniotic fluid aids with muscle development.
  • Amniotic fluid prevents the umbilical cord from being squeezed.

Amniotic fluid is contained in the amniotic sac. The sac forms about 12 days after getting pregnant. The amount of amniotic fluid in the sac reaches its apex at approximately 34 to 36 weeks and equals about a quart. Amniotic fluid is normally clear or tinted yellow. If the baby has a bowel movement before birth, the fluid becomes brownish and may present problems.

Amniotic fluid is made of many things. Amniotic fluid doesn’t sound very appetizing to one no longer in the womb. It consists of fetal urine, secretions through the umbilical cord, membrane coverings from the placenta and baby skin. Also included are chemicals from the lungs, sodium, potassium and other electrolytes.

Amniotic fluid analysis from fluid drawn out of the mother’s abdomen may reveal important aspects of fetal development and genetic health.

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