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Amniotic fluid volume dynamics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 October 2008

William M Glibert
University of California at San Diego, USA
Thomas R Moore
University of California at San Diego, USA
Robert A Brace
University of California at San Diego, USA


From the moment of implantation until delivery some 37 weeks later, the human embryo or fetus is surrounded by fluid. Initially this fluid is a transudate from maternal and embryonic tissues which provides nutrients for the growing embryo. Starting in early pregnancy, the fetal kidneys begin to contribute substantial quantities of urine to the amniotic fluid volume. At mid pregnancy, when the skin becomes keratinized, the kidneys become the main source of amniotic fluid. Fetal swallowing is the main route of amniotic fluid removal. Although fetal urine production and swallowing have been studied in both human pregnancy and animal models, the knowledge from these investigations is not sufficiently extensive to explain overall amniotic fluid volume regulation. None the less, it is clear that the amniotic fluid is in a dynamic, ever-changing state. The production rate of the fetal urine in the human fetus at term (800–1200ml/day) is sufficient to replace completely the entire amniotic volume every 12–24 hours1. While the fetus is producing large volumes of urine, the volume of amniotic fluid is normally maintained within a very narrow range. Deviations from the normal range are often associated with significant perinatal morbidity and mortality.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1991

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