Mathematic modeling of human amniotic fluid dynamics

S. E. Mann, M. J.M. Nijland, M. G. Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: We sought to develop a model quantifying the relative contributions of fetal swallowing and intramembranous flow to amniotic fluid dynamics during human gestation. We then used the model to simulate the impact of absent swallowing on amniotic fluid volume. STUDY DESIGN: The model was developed with published data for normal human amniotic fluid volume and composition, human fetal urine flow rate and composition (11 to 42 weeks), and extrapolated data from ovine lung fluid production. Fetal swallowing and intramembranous flow were calculated with assumptions that (1) swallowed fluid is isotonic to amniotic fluid, (2) intramembranous flow is free water diffusion, and (3) 50% of lung fluid is swallowed. The model was then applied to simulate absent fetal swallowing and variable (0%, 50%) proportions of swallowed lung fluid were used as a representation of esophageal atresia- tracheal fistula variations. RESULTS: Fetal swallowed volume and intramembranous flow linearly increase until 28 to 30 weeks. Daily swallowed volume then exponentially increases to a maximum of 1006 ml/day at term, whereas intramembranous flow continues on a linear trend to reach 393 ml/day at term. With absent swallowing and variable amounts of lung fluid swallowed (0%, 50%), predicted amniotic fluid volume is similar to normal values through 20 weeks, exceeds the 95% confidence interval for normal amniotic fluid volume at 29 to 30 weeks' gestation (~2000 ml), and then exponentially increases. Predicted amniotic fluid osmolality (280 to 257 mOsm/kg) is slightly lower than actual values although within the clinically normal range. CONCLUSIONS: This model indicates that the normal reduction in amniotic fluid volume beginning at 34 weeks results from the marked increase in swallowed volume during the third trimester. Additionally, this model correlates well with the timing of the initial clinical presentation of polyhydramnios observed in some fetuses with conditions that result in absent or reduced swallowing or gastrointestinal atresia. Modeling of amniotic fluid dynamics can predict normal changes in fetal fluid exchange and may aid in understanding of amniotic fluid imbalances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)937-944
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number4 I
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Fetal swallowing
  • amniotic fluid
  • intramembranous flow
  • polyhydramnios

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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