A contemporary amniotic fluid volume chart for the United States: The NICHD Fetal Growth Studies–Singletons

John Owen*, Paul S. Albert, Germaine M. Buck Louis, Karin M. Fuchs, William A. Grobman, Sungduk Kim, Mary E. D'Alton, Ronald Wapner, Deborah A. Wing, Katherine L. Grantz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Amniotic fluid is essential to normal fetal development and is estimated clinically with ultrasound scanning to identify pregnancies that are at risk for poor perinatal outcome. Objective: Our goal was to develop a United States standard for amniotic fluid volume that is estimated by the amniotic fluid index and single deepest pocket. Study Design: We performed a planned secondary analysis of a multicenter observational study of 2334 low-risk women with normal singleton gestations from 1 of 4 self-reported racial/ethnic groups. Eligible women had confirmed first-trimester dating criteria with health status, lifestyles, and medical and obstetric histories that were associated with normal fetal growth. Consenting women underwent serial (up to 5) sonographic evaluations of amniotic fluid between 15 and 40 weeks of gestation after being assigned randomly to 1 of 4 gestational age observation schedules. Twelve United States perinatal centers participated, and all sonograms were performed by credentialed sonographers who used identical, high-resolution equipment; caregivers were unaware of results but were notified for oligohydramnios. Women (n=597) who were subsequently found to have clinically significant antepartum complications were excluded. Racial/ethnic–specific nomograms for amniotic fluid index and single deepest pocket across gestation were developed with the use of linear mixed models with cubic splines; racial/ethnic differences were evaluated both with global and between-group tests. Median, 3rd, 5th, 10th, 90th, 95th and 97th percentile values were also estimated. We further considered the possible confounding effects of selected maternal characteristics and the estimated fetal weight at each sonogram. Results: A total of 1719 pregnant women met inclusion criteria and had available data. These included 480 non-Hispanic white women, 418 non-Hispanic black women, 485 Hispanic women, and 336 Asian women. Both the amniotic fluid index and the single deepest pocket varied across gestation with maximal values at 26 and 33 weeks of gestation, respectively. Statistically significant differences were observed by maternal race/ethnicity. The between-group differences that were observed at 17–22 and 35–40 weeks of gestation remained statistically significant after adjustment for maternal characteristics and estimated fetal weight. These between-group racial/ethnic differences were most prominent after 35 weeks of gestation and at the extremes of dispersion (3rd and 97th percentiles). All 3rd and 97th percentile amniotic fluid index values were within the range of commonly used cutoffs to define oligohydramnios (≤5 cm) and polyhydramnios (≥25 cm). However, the 3rd percentile values ranged between 5.9 cm at 40 weeks of gestation and 10.1 cm at 25–27 weeks of gestation; the 97th percentile values ranged between 24.8 cm at 38 weeks of gestation and 15.7 cm at 15 weeks of gestation. Conclusion: Sonographic amniotic fluid volume estimates vary by racial/ethnic group, but the absolute differences appear to be small and may not be clinically significant. Selected maternal characteristics and estimated fetal weight did not affect the racial/ethnic differences. Between-group differences are maximal after 35 weeks of gestation and at the extremes of the upper and lower dispersion estimates. Given the observed variability in extreme (3rd and 97th percentile) dispersion values over the gestation, use of single cutoffs to define out-of-range measurements may not be appropriate clinically. These data might form a contemporary United States standard for amniotic fluid estimation that uses the amniotic fluid index and the single deepest pocket.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67.e1-67.e12
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • amniotic fluid index
  • estimated fetal weight
  • ethnic
  • fetal growth
  • low-risk
  • racial
  • single deepest pocket

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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