Water Breaking

In about 15% of pregnancies, water breaks before labor begins. Unlike how movies project, water breaking is not always dramatic or embarrassing. Here are the answers to the most common questions on water breaking and a guide to what you need to do when your waters break

Last Updated: Oct 22, 2020 11:29 GMT

Water Breaking
Water Breaking

What is water breaking?

A baby in the womb thrives inside a sac of fluid termed as amniotic sac and amniotic fluid respectively. In 85% of pregnancies, sometime after labor begins, the amniotic fluid breaks open, which is one of the natural stages in the birthing process. In the remaining 15% pregnancies, however, the amniotic sac might rupture to release the amniotic fluid before the onset of labor. In either case, this, in casual terms, is called water breaking though water breaking more often refers to the spontaneous flow of the fluid before labor starts.

How will I know when my water breaks?

The signs of water breaking can be as happening as in Hollywood pregnancies or too subtle to be even noticed. While the former is rare, you must keep yourself informed of the following symptoms of water breaking during pregnancy:

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A sudden gush of water from in-between your legs: This is how one would imagine when they hear water breaking. You might or might not hear a pop sound followed by a stream of warm fluid running down your legs. Though possible, this dramatic and sudden gush of water is less common.

A slow trickle from down there: Water breaking can happen in feeble quantities a few times over intermittent intervals. The amount of fluid leaked could be little that most often, the pregnant mother might assume it to be urine leakage or vaginal discharge. Amniotic fluid is usually colorless and odorless which marks its difference from urine. Also, unlike urine flow, water breaking and flow cannot be controlled by your kegel muscles. So, when you are nearing pregnancy (or, sometimes in the case of premature labor), if you find your dress wet without an apparent feeling of something coming out of your vagina, most likely your water has broken.

During labor: You can as well have your baby in your arms without ever realizing your water breaking. As labor proceeds and contractions get stronger, the amniotic sac opens up after which labor can intensify. In some cases, your OB might have to poke open the amniotic sac with a hook-like device during labor. This is common too; keep cool, water breaking has never been reported to be painful.

How soon can I go into labor after water breaking?

There can be no definite answer to this. If you are close to full term and your water breaks, labor is more likely to follow in a few hours. If labor contractions have already started when your water breaks, you are almost there. If you havent reached 37 weeks yet in your pregnancy and your water breaks, it is an alarm to contact your OB immediately.

What happens to my baby when my water breaks?

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It depends on how far you are in your pregnancy. If you are in your late pregnancy, past 37 weeks, water breaking could be a sign of impending labor. Once you are at the doctors clinic, your OB will be able to access the situation. Some doctors might wait for labor to begin for 4-5 hours while others would suggest waiting longer for 7-8 or even 12 hours after water breaking. Until then, your baby can remain safe inside in a normal pregnancy.

The following situations, however, pose possible risks to the baby which calls for immediate medical attention:

You are less than 37 weeks in your pregnancy. At this stage, the babys lungs arent developed well enough to sustain the loss of amniotic fluid. Medically, this situation is termed preterm prelabour rupture of the membranes (PPROM). In most PPROM cases, you and your baby will be closely monitored for infections, level of amniotic fluid, fetal heart rate and other vitals.

  • The amniotic discharge is greenish in color
  • Pain in abdomen
  • Symptoms of fever high temperature or cold shivers
  • Blood discharge from the vagina
  • Less or no movements of the baby

What should I do when my water breaks?

  • If you not sure if it is water breaking or something else, it is alright to consult your midwife or doctor.
  • If you are sure it is water breaking, contact your OB. Some doctors may advise you to visit the doctors office to diagnose your condition while others may suggest you to wait for a few more hours.
  • If you observe any risk factors associated with water breaking, like fever, pain or vaginal bleeding, you must not wait for labor to begin. You must drive to the hospital as early as possible.
  • Use a towel to manage the leakage if the flow is higher.
  • Take extra care not to expose yourself to infections.

Follow the tips given above to take care of your health during pregnancy.

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