Does this baby make my belly look big?

32 Weeks Pregnant

Big Baby-main photo.jpg

I kind of wish I could stop going to my prenatal appointments. I know it’s important to check on the baby, but it seems like every time I walk in feeling happy and healthy, I walk out with a whole new laundry list of potential concerns.
On the list this week: polyhydramnios (too much fluid). It was scrawled all over my chart when I went in for this week’s appointment. I already knew that my uterus is measuring large (36 weeks instead of 32 weeks), and that I have “extra fluid,” but seeing the technical term for it on my chart makes it seems like such a “condition” now.
So, what’s the deal with too much fluid? A lot of fluid sounds like a good thing to me—I mean, what baby wouldn’t want a little extra cushion and more room to maneuver? But, apparently, it’s not such a good thing, for several reasons. The main concerns are:
  1. There's a higher incidence of polyhydramnios in babies with genetic anomalies such as Down Syndrome and Trisomy 18 (Here we go again… now I’m feeling a little better about having had the amnio.)
  1. It’s a sign of gestational diabetes (But I just passed that test.)
  1. Because the baby can move around too freely in the extra fluid, there’s a risk that he’ll get tangled in the umbilical chord—potentially tragically.
  1. There’s a risk of premature labor because the amniotic sac sometimes can't hold so much fluid, and it often breaks early.
  1. If the amniotic sac does break early, before the baby’s in position for delivery, there’s an increased risk of cord prolapse (the force of the water rushing out can flush the umbilical cord out ahead of the baby, sometimes cutting off its oxygen supply.)
  1. There's an increased risk of placental abruption.
  1. Extra fluid is a possible sign of infection, such as toxoplasmosis.
  1. Extra fluid may indicate that the baby has an impaired ability to swallow fluid, or that the baby’s digestive system, heart, or kidneys aren't functioning well enough to regulate fluid levels. (The baby regulates the amniotic fluid by drinking it in and urinating it out.)
  1. There’s a slightly increased risk of stillbirth associated with polyhydramnios.
I guess it’s a bigger deal than I realized. Still, I have to believe that all is well, and that maybe I’m just carrying a bigger-than-average baby, with a little more fluid than the average woman. As our Ask the Labor Nurse blogger says: “Most of the time, polyhydramnios simply means we need more towels to sop up the mess when the water bag breaks.”
So, what now? In the near term, I’m due for more monitoring. I just had a non-stress test, where I sat hooked up to a monitor for 20 minutes to check on the baby’s heart rate. The baby passed with flying colors. (And it’s no wonder they call it a “non” stress test—for me, it was the most relaxing 20 minutes I’ve had in a long time, being forced to just sit quietly for 20 minutes with my feet up in a big Barcalounger-type chair, listening to the rhythmic thump, thump, thumping of our baby’s heart. Now that’s my kind of prenatal test!) Then, I was sent to get some additional blood work done to check for any potential infections, and up next--another ultrasound. As my midwife says, this is going to be a very well-photographed baby.
Join's Managing Editor Dana Rousmaniere each week as she blogs about her third pregnancy.