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Coping with Polyhydramnios

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This is a guest-post about polyhydramnios by Alice Thompson who publishes at

“Oh my gosh, you’re enormous!”.  

I wasn’t even 8 months pregnant when my shocked friend shouted out this choice greeting, but I was already carrying an extra 25kg (55lbs) on top of my pre-pregnancy 55kg (120Ibs).  

That’s a LOT of extra weight to carry when you’re 5’2. 

I was big right from the start of my pregnancy, but after a diagnosis at 29 weeks of polyhydramnios – too much amniotic fluid – I just ballooned.

It’s hard not to be freaked when you’re told you’ve got polyhydramnios (PH).  

In most cases there’s no known cause or treatment.

So lots of mums-to-be do exactly what I did, which was go home after diagnosis, Google it and scare themselves silly when they find it significantly increases delivery risk and is associated with lots of fetal complications that may not be discovered until after birth.  

There are times when “Dr Google” is really not a good idea, but whatever anyone tells you – you will look, it’s human nature.

If you’ve been diagnosed with polyhydramnios, you  have to hold onto the the good news, which is that even in 50% of severe cases there are no complications.  

But in my experience however hard you try this, you are still likely to be incredibly anxious and more practically, hauling all that extra weight around is no easy matter.

Although – except when associated with gestational diabetes – there is no treatment there are things you can do to handle the anxiety and the weight and to reduce some of the delivery risk.

I spent the last trimester of my pregnancy more or less stuck at home looking like a beached whale and feeling frightened.

So in this post I have tried to bring together a list of all the tips that I think would really have helped me cope with PH a bit better.

Coping with Polyhydramnios

What to expect

I think the first thing to accept is that you are probably not going to have a beautiful blooming, skipping through the meadows, picture-book pregnancy.  

You will almost certainly be enormous – typical weight gain for a non-PH singleton pregnancy is 12 kg (25 Ibs) but with PH you could be double this or more. 

In addition you may:

  • Be very anxious
  • Struggle for breath because your diaphragm is being squashed by your uterus
  • Have swollen legs
  • Have swelling over the rest of the body
  • Have painful knees because of massively increased weight
  • Have limited mobility because of breathlessness and sheer weight you’re carrying 
  • Receive a fair dose of unwelcome and disapproving comments about your “weight”
  • Abdominal pain from stretching of your stomach
  • Suffer from bad heartburn
  • Have frequent braxton hicks from early in pregnancy
  • Not be able to work as long as expected
  • Your bump may be very sensitive to pressure on it

In the last few months you probably won’t be able to do much very physical to get ready for the baby and even if you feel you can you almost certainly shouldn’t!

 I went into early labour at 29 weeks – very fortunately they managed to stop it – from scrubbing the floors!  So:

  • Don’t feel guilty about needing rest and help
  • Get as much rest as you can
  • Avoid going up + down stairs as much as can – get everything in one place and stay put
  • Get other people to do as much as they can for you and DO accept offers of help – the builders across the road felt so sorry for me that they would nip to the shop for me 🙂
  • Do only short bursts of housework or anything else physical
  • Try some relaxation techniques – I found a hypno-birthing CD helpful – that can ease your breathing and reduce anxiety
  • Follow general advice on heartburn – eat small amounts regularly, don’t lie down after eating and avoid acidic and spicey food
  • Look out for under bump jeans etc and loose dresses if your bump feels really uncomfortable with any pressure on it

What the medical team may do

PH is strongly associated with gestational diabetes and increases the risk of a child being born with a range of conditions.  
If your medical team suspects PH you will be given an ultrasound scan and typically after a diagnosis:
  • You will be tested for diabetes with a fasting glucose test
  • The scan will be assessed for fetal abnormalities

In the majority of cases both these will be negative and – although there are some fetal abnormalities that can’t be picked up by the scan – the focus for you and the medical team will be to minimise the delivery risk.  

Only rarely do medical teams drain fluid as there are additional risks associated with this.

In most cases your medical team will want to monitor you but in my experience it’s easy to fall between hospital consultants and outpatient midwives with neither really taking responsibility.  

Unfortunately, my hospital failed to advise my midwife how she should monitor me so when she finally sent me back to the hospital at 37 weeks it was all a bit of a panic.

Even if the diabetes and scan results come back negative I would push your medical team to explain in full what they will do for the rest of the pregnancy, in particular:

  • What will they monitor? (ideally midwife should be monitoring girth and weight as this will  be easiest indicator of further rapid growth in fluid – by default UK midwives no longer measure weight so post diagnosis push yours to do it if she’s not)
  • Who will be responsible for monitoring?
  • What symptoms you should look out for?
  • Whether you should continue to work?
  • Whether they will want to induce labour pre-term? (see below for why)
  • When will they make a decision on inducing labour pre-term?
  • Who will make the decision?
  • What you should do if your waters break?

Managing the delivery risk

Many PH pregnancies don’t go to full term and a lot of medical teams want to hospitalise you pre-term and induce early, so that they can manage the labour.

This is because there is an increased risk of a prolapsed cord (umbilical cord is washed out before baby), the placenta coming away and / or the baby not engaging and post-delivery haemorrhaging.

With this in mind it makes sense to:

  • Pack your hospital bag early
  • Get everything ready for the baby early
  • Have an emergency procedure agreed with family & friends 
  • Know what to do if your waters break
  • Know what to do if the cord prolapses
If your waters do break – and be warned it will be a great flood! – anywhere outside the hospital the first thing to do is:
  • Get on your hands and knees
  • With your bum right in the air
  • And shoulders and arms right on the ground

This is basically to try and stop the cord prolapsing.  

If the cord does come out the guidelines I was given were to:

  • Call immediately for an ambulance
  • Say have woman with polyhydramnios in labour & broken waters & prolapsed cord
  • Not touch cord or push it back into vagina
  • Not to eat or drink as very likely need c-section
  • Call labour ward to tell them you’re coming in in ambulance with prolapsed cord
  • Open outside door so ambulance staff can come straight in
This leaflet from the UK Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists provides a good summary of the above with a great diagram of how to get your bum in the air!

Handling labour

Unfortunately, there is a higher likelihood of the need for a c-section if you have PH so I do think it’s worth working that into a birth plan.  

There are plenty of women with PH who deliver “naturally” but thinking in advance about how you would like to be treated if you do need a c-section may make it a better experience.

Even if you don’t need a c-section you may find labour difficult once contractions start because your abdomen is so tense and tight.  

You may also find the monitoring unbearably uncomfortable for the same reason.  

From my experience the things that gave at least a little relief were:

  • Hypno-birthing breathing & relaxation – really wish practiced much more than I did
  • Pethadine – which on my birth plan was the one thing I’d said I really, really didn’t want but it did help me to relax sufficiently to get a little relief

Although, many mums-to-be are nervous of both induction and c-section, if you instinctively feel there is something “wrong” and you’re beyond 36 weeks and your medical team aren’t discussing induction, you may want to push for it.

Ultimately, it’s better to get your baby out healthy.

If you’re suffering polyhydramnios at the moment, I’m sending you lots of positive vibes and hope that you get the support you need to bring your baby into the world.

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Polyhydramnios - advice on how to cope with polyhydramnios in pregnancy from a mum who went through it


Friday 19th of November 2021

I was expecting twins and was diagnosed with polyhydramnios at 24weeks due to gestational diabetes was quickly referred to a teaching hospital for all the care and attention. AFI was 48cm and my belly was really huge couldn't turn in bed or even wash my vaginal when I'm bathing 🙃 . I went into preterm labour and the outcome was negative because none of the TWINS survived.


Friday 26th of November 2021

I'm so incredibly sorry to read this, I hope that you have friends and family who are looking after you and that you are receiving all the love and care that you need.


Sunday 5th of July 2020


I am 34 weeks pregnant and suffer from PH.. We discovered it 10 days ago but I feel big and painful since 1-2 months (because of the covid crisis here in Belgium, we didn’t have the usual ultrasound and mine was rescheduled later).. Since 4 days, à can’t even do normal things and I am in my bed or couch most of my time.. I can’t go to the bathroom, can’t reach my butt to wipe it :(( I can dress myself alone! I am someone really strong and indépendant, this is our fifth baby and all my other pregnancies went « normal » and I was full time indépendant till the very end! I feel bad about my lovely mom who had to move here last week to help.. My husband is a doctor and works 12h a day, so he is not able to stay home. Our other sons are only 8yo, 6yo, 4yo and 2yo.. this is so much work and I can’t help for anything.. I feel guilty!

Your post really helped me because it is exactly what I needed to read right now. I have an appointment with the gynaecologist in 4 days and I am gonna ask for a early induction (36 weeks looks like the « best options » even if for all the other I had full natural delivery.. this time, I am so scared and it hurts so much, I don’t feel it wise to wait longer than that!!!) The last baby (number 4h) had a double cord on the neck and I already had a lot of water.. they were so stressed out with the cord that it was a nightmare of stress during delivery and it lasted 39h!! Never again!

I feel guilty to « kick » this baby out.. I feel guilty to be weak! I feel sad because it is my last pregnancy and I expected everything but that.. The covid crisis had me already really bad.. I was Covid +++ and it was hell.. I will never forget this « last one ».. And I pray every second that our baby is healthy and doesn’t suffer from all we went true those 6 last monthes..

I had to tell my story because nobody understand.. I am so lonely...


Tuesday 9th of February 2021

Hey, how did it went, how was the delivery and how is the baby now? I am 30 weeks and also with PH. I identify so much with what you wrote, it feels very lonely and scary :(


Wednesday 26th of August 2020

I'm so sorry not to spot your comment until now. I hope all is well with you and your baby. It sounds like you had the most dreadful time and I'm glad that the post offered you some comfort and help. All the best, Luci x


Saturday 27th of June 2020

I was just diagnosed at 32 weeks, but told at my 34 week appointment. My glucose test was negative back when I took it, but I’ve always wondered if that can change. My OB said I have a lot of fluid, and has just ordered stress tests hooked up to a heart rate monitor weekly. But nothing else has been discussed. I am already a high risk pregnancy due to a history of blood clots, so I feel especially vulnerable. Thank you for the post. I am definitely scared.


Wednesday 26th of August 2020

I really hope that all has worked out the very best for you and your baby, Luci x

Beauty Singh

Tuesday 23rd of June 2020

Hello moms!! I am diagnosed with PH during my 25 week scan AFI level 18 cm. Your post gave me positive hopes !! Thank you

Google knowledge has made me anxious was so nervous now bit relaxed


Wednesday 26th of August 2020

I'm so glad the post helped, I wish you and your baby all the best, Luci x


Wednesday 18th of November 2015

I was diagnosed last week at 28 weeks. I am having another scan next week but have not been given a great deal of information. The internet has scared me silly so tried to make sense of my notes. AFI 28.5 and fundal measurement of 34cm. Seeing my midwife tomorrow who is going to be inundated with questions!