Water breaking is one of the earliest signs of onset of labor in pregnant women. All women feel anxious before the birth of their child especially if it is their first baby. Water breaking is one of the things about which we have lots of questions and concerns.

This is one concept which has been overly dramatized by our film industry. We all remember the very famous scene from "Sex and the City" where Charlotte's water breaks, don't we? So we expect to go through the similarly embarrassing scene when it is our time. But that isn't always so!

So here we will discuss some common concerns about water breaking that pregnant women generally have.

What is Water Breaking?

What is Water Breaking?

Before we discuss the common concerns regarding water breaking, we should at least know what water breaking actually is. Water breaking is a term that refers to the leaking of amniotic fluid from your vagina that generally happens at the onset of labor. During pregnancy, the baby is present inside the amniotic sac that is filled with amniotic fluid which helps in cushioning the baby and keeping it safe from shocks and injuries.

The water bag is made up of two membranes and hence, water breaking is also referred to as "ruptured membranes". At the onset of labor, this sac tears and amniotic fluid leaks out through your vagina via the cervix, this is termed as water breaking.

When Does Water Breaking Occur?

This is one of the common concerns regarding water breaking. Well the answer is labor occurs at about week 40 of pregnancy. Water breaking generally occurs at first or second stage of labor though it may occur before that. The ideal time of water breaking is after the first stage of labor though we cannot control when it actually happens. The water protects the baby from infection and that is the reason why late breaking of water is ideal.

You may also feel less pain during contractions if your water hasn't yet broken. This is due to the fact that the pressure spreads throughout the uterus if your water hasn't yet broken.

2% of the women experience early water breaking before 37th week of pregnancy which is termed as Premature Rupture of Membranes or PROM. One in ten women experience water breaking before the onset of labor or before any other sign of labor is evident. Once the water has broken, the pain of labor becomes sharper.

What Does Water Breaking Feels Like?

One more common concern of pregnant women is the feeling of water breaking. Water breaking is different for different women. It may occur as a slight trickle or it may gush out. There is no telling which one you will experience as it depends on where the amniotic sac is going to tear.

At the time of delivery, the amount of amniotic fluid in the womb can be about 600ml and the body keeps on making more even during labor, so don't be surprised at the amount of fluid that is leaking through your body.

How to Distinguish Between Urine and Water Breaking?

Some women are concerned about not being able to distinguish between pee and water breaking. If that is a concern for you, you can differentiate between the two by smell and consistency of the fluid. If it smells of ammonia, it's pee and if it is odorless or has a slightly sugary smell then it's most probably amniotic fluid. Also amniotic fluid is usually colorless or pale yellow and it may have a pink tinge as it sometimes contains streaks of blood.

What to Do If Your Water Breaks Unexpectedly?

If one of your concern is about your water breaking unexpectedly, you can keep a few maternity pads with you at all times from about 37th week of pregnancy. That will take care of any embarrassing situations at work or in public but make sure you do not use tampons or towels. This is because your fluid can be checked when you go to the hospital if you were wearing maternity pads at the time of water breaking but towels tend to lock the fluid away so that the color of the fluid cannot be properly checked.

Also you can keep a plastic sheet under your bedsheet on your mattress to keep it from getting wet and ruined if your water breaks during your sleep.

What to Do After Your Water Breaks?

This is the most common concern regarding water breaking with women. Here are the things that you need to do when your water breaks:

  • Do not panic. Remember this is a natural process that millions of women have gone through before you. If they can do it, so can you!
  • After your water breaks, you should contact your doctor or your midwife as soon as possible.
  • They will most probably ask you a few questions regarding the color of your water, how much of it was leaked, whether it was a gush or a trickle etc.
  • They will also ask you questions like:
    1. Did you experience any pain?
    2. Do you have contractions?
    3. When did your water break?
    4. Is this your first baby? etc.
  • Make sure you answer their questions as calmly and precisely as possible. Don't forget that they are trying to help you, so don't be impatient and help them do their job.
  • You will be asked to come to your maternity centre or hospital after you inform your doctor, so that they can confirm about your water breaking. They will also discuss with you your delivery options and how to proceed further.
  • Once you reach the hospital, your doctor will listen to the heartbeat of your baby to make sure that he is doing okay.
  • If your doctor is uncertain about the breaking of your water, they may do a vaginal exam otherwise the vaginal exam will not be necessary at this stage of your labor.

What If My Contractions Don't Start Even After My Water Breaks?

This is also one of the common concerns of women with respect to water breaking. If your contractions don't start even after your water breaks and you are 37 or more weeks pregnant, your doctor will most probably give you the following two options. They may give you the same choices even if your water has broken earlier than usual at about 34th to 37th week of pregnancy.

Artificial Induction of Labor

Your doctor will give you the option of getting artificial induction of labor if you don't have any contractions even after your water breaks. They will inject you with some drugs that will induce labor. You can opt for labor induction immediately after the water breaking or you can wait a day or two for your labor and if the contractions still don't occur, then you can go through induction of labor.

But in some cases doctors may advise for immediate induction of labor such as if you have Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection so as to protect your baby from contracting the same infection. They will also administer antibiotics intravenously for the same purpose. Since amniotic fluid protects the baby from infection; with it gone after your water breaks, the chances of infection go up drastically.

Wait for Natural Labor

If everything is normal and you are not suffering from any serious infection, doctors will give you the choice of waiting for your labor if you don't have contractions even after your water breaking. Almost all women go into labor before 48 hours have passed after the breaking of their water even if they don't have contractions directly after their water breaking. 60% of them even go into labor within 24 hours.

So waiting for at least a day before you opt for induction of labor might be a good idea. In the meantime, you can go home and enjoy a relaxing day in a familiar and comfortable surrounding which will help to alleviate your anxiety. You can even take a shower or bath, although you are advised not to have sex as it increases the risk of infection.

So with this information, we hope you will be able to enjoy your pregnancy instead of fretting the whole time. Just remember that it is okay to have some concerns regarding pregnancy and water breaking etc. but don't let them overwhelm you to the point that it affects your mental or emotional well-being. Don't forget that you are going to bring a real, live and breathing human being into the world which is a huge miracle in itself!

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Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: August 18, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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