Management of Symptomatic Polyhydramnios
Mentor: Tiffany A. Moore-Simas, MD
Editor: Martin E. Olsen, MD
Polyhydramnios (or hydramnios) is an excessive amount of amniotic fluid relative to gestational age. It is thought to result from either increased production or decreased clearance of amniotic fluid and is often suspected when uterine size is greater than dates. Polyhydramnios may be initially identified sonographically through subjective impression. Quantified measurements include the amniotic fluid index (AFI) and single deepest pocket (SDP). It is characterized as mild (AFI 25-30 cm or SDP ≥ 8 and < 12 cm), moderate (AFI 30.1-35 cm or SDP ≥12 and < 16 cm), or severe (AFI ≥ 35.1cm or SDP ≥16cm).
The etiologies of polyhydramnios are most often idiopathic (50-60%), or related to maternal diabetes (20%), fetal malformations (10-15%), fetal infections, multiple gestations (5-10%), or isoimmunization (1%). Polyhydramnios is associated with increased risk of preterm premature rupture of membranes, preterm birth, macrosomia, malpresentation, umbilical cord prolapse, abruption, uterine atony and postpartum hemorrhage, and other adverse outcomes. These complications increase the risk of cesarean delivery and NICU admission. The uterine distension found in polyhydramnios can be associated with maternal symptoms including shortness of breath with respiratory compromise, uterine irritability and contractions, and abdominal discomfort.
Recommendations for evaluation and management are similar for both singleton and twin gestations. Evaluation includes a comprehensive ultrasound to assess for anomalies and hydrops. Other testing should include diabetes and antibody screening, rapid plasma reagin (RPR), parvovirus, toxoplasmosis, and cytomegalovirus (CMV) when indicated. Genetic evaluation may be considered to evaluate for aneuploidy, especially when polyhydramnios is severe, is diagnosed prior to 24 weeks, or when coexisting fetal anomalies or fetal growth restriction are identified.
Antenatal testing should be initiated at 28-32 weeks gestation along with serial ultrasound evaluation to monitor amniotic fluid levels and fetal growth.
In pregnancies less than 32 weeks gestation, use of a prostaglandin synthetase inhibitor (e.g. indomethacin) can be considered for 48 hours if significant maternal symptoms are present. Use of prostaglandin synthetase inhibitors for more than 48 hours should involve input from high risk pregnancy consultants. Potential complications include premature ductus closure, necrotizing enterocolitis, and intraventricular hemorrhage. Given the risk of preterm birth, consideration should be given to the administration of antenatal corticosteroids.
In cases of severe or symptomatic polyhydramnios, amnioreduction may be performed. No consensus exists on the speed or volume of amniotic fluid removal. There is no consensus on the roles of tocolytics and antibiotics. Complications of amnioreduction occur relatively infrequently (1-3%) and include rupture of membranes, preterm labor, placental abruption, infection, and hypoproteinemia.
Delivery is recommended no later than 39-40 weeks. Severe and symptomatic situations require balancing the risks of early delivery against the risks of the interventions. Polyhydramnios is not itself an indication for cesarean delivery. Artificial membrane rupture should be delayed, avoided, or performed carefully with consideration of controlled amniotomy using a small gauge needle to avoid complications such as cord prolapse and abruption. Fetal presentation should be monitored during labor and providers should be prepared for increased likelihood of postpartum hemorrhage.
Magann EF and Chauhan SP (2012). Sonographic assessment of amniotic fluid: oligohydramnios and polyhydramnios. In V. Berghella (Ed), Maternal-Fetal Evidence Based Guidelines, 2nd Edition (pp 414-420). London: Informa Healthcare.
Sandlin AT, Chauhan SP, and Magann EF. Clinical relevance of sonographically estimated amniotic fluid volume: polyhydramnios. J Ultrasound Med. 2013 May;32(5):851-63. doi: 10.7863/ultra.32.5.851.
Committee on Practice Bulletins—Obstetrics and the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine. Practice Bulletin No. 175: Ultrasound in Pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 2016 Dec;128(6):e241-e256.
Initial approval September 2016, Reaffirmed March 2018
********** Notice Regarding Use ************
The Foundation for Exxcellence in Women’s Health, Inc (“Foundation”) is committed to accuracy and will review and validate all Pearls on an ongoing basis to reflect current practice.
This document is designed to aid practitioners in providing appropriate obstetric and gynecologic care. Recommendations are derived from major society guidelines and high quality evidence when available, supplemented by the opinion of the author and editorial board when necessary. It should not be construed as dictating an exclusive course of treatment or procedure to be followed.
Variations in practice may be warranted when, in the reasonable judgment of the treating clinician, such course of action is indicated by the condition of the patient, limitations of available resources, or advances in knowledge or technology. The Foundation reviews the articles regularly; however, its publications may not reflect the most recent evidence. While we make every effort to present accurate and reliable information, this publication is provided “as is” without any warranty of accuracy, reliability, or otherwise, either express or implied. The Foundation does not guarantee, warrant, or endorse the products or services of any firm, organization, or person. Neither the Foundation, the ABOG, SASGOG nor their respective officers, directors, members, employees, or agents will be liable for any loss, damage, or claim with respect to any liabilities, including direct, special, indirect, or consequential damages, incurred in connection with this publication or reliance on the information presented.
Copyright 2018 The Foundation for Exxcellence in Women's Health, Inc. All rights reserved. No re-print, duplication or posting allowed without prior written consent.Back to Search Results