I’ve been to 18 births and have had 3 clients get induced for low fluid levels. This seems like a lot. Why are low fluid levels so common? TIA!
Wondering About Fluid Levels
Dear Wondering About Fluid Levels,
I had this happen to me quite a bit when I was a new doula. As a newbie, I didn’t have any advice to give my clients. All I could say was “I’ll support you at your induction.” I later learned that low fluid levels can be due to dehydration. A lot of pregnant people in hospital care begin to get something called a non-stress test (NST) a couple times per week starting at 39-40 weeks. This test usually records the baby’s heart tones for 20 minutes and uses ultrasound to measure amniotic fluid level. They also may measure the baby with ultrasound. One thing to note is that ultrasound measurements can be off 2-3 pounds in either direction. I can think of a few inductions I’ve been to for Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) where it was thought baby was not growing but then baby was born at a healthy weight. IUGR is very serious but is often misdiagnosed due to inaccuracy of ultrasound measurements - so it can be difficult to know when to induce and when not to. Anyways, back to fluid levels. If a person is dehydrated, it can affect how much amniotic fluid is around baby. Often my clients would go in the morning to their NSTs after not drinking water all night and they were quite dehydrated. Many mamas also feel a lot of pressure in their stomach from being so pregnant and do not drink enough water in general because it’s uncomfortable and it can make them have to pee a lot. In prenatal visits I always encourage mamas to sip water throughout the day to stay hydrated and not feel bloated.
Nowadays, if I get a call from a client saying they have low fluid levels, I advise them to ask their care provider if they can wait 2-3 hours and drink a ton of water with some lemon (lemon juice helps break water molecules down and allows our bodies to absorb H2O better). Most of the time, this does the trick. When they retest, their levels are fine. Why the care provider does not always recommend this, I do not know. But I do know it has saved some of my clients from an unnecessary induction. Also, some care providers are so quick to induce even if levels are just a bit off. I learned which care providers induce more often and warn clients during pregnancy to switch if they desired a birth with less interventions.