I vividly remember the first time I saw someone’s water breaking on TV.
I was about eight years old, watching Coneheads at my friend’s house. The mother announces the “birth spasm” is about to being, there is a massive gush of water, flooding through the kitchen and out the door. The coneheads then pad through an inch of water on the floor as they make their way to the hospital.
Let me assure you that is NOT an accurate representation of water breaking. You are not a Conehead.
What does the water do?
The water, or amniotic fluid, fills the amniotic sac where your baby lives in your uterus. The amniotic fluid keeps your baby safely cushioned from the outside world, and regulates temperature so that baby is not too hot or too cold. It also has nutrients, hormones, and antibodies that fight infection.
When will my water break?
Contrary to what we’ve seen in the movies, water breaking is usually not the first sign of labor. In fact, only 10-15% of women experience water breaking as the first sign. When waters break before the onset of labor, it is known as Pre-Labor Rupture of Membranes (PROM), and can happen between 37-42 weeks of pregnancy.
If your water breaks before 36 weeks, that is called Preterm Premature Rupture of the Membranes (PPROM). In that case, your doctor may take steps to prevent labor and allow baby’s lungs more time to develop, treat you with antibiotics to avoid infection, or may delivery the baby.
For most women, your water will break sometime during labor, either on its own or assisted by your provider. Doctors sometimes break the water, called Artificial Rupture of Membranes (AROM), in an effort to help labor progress. Like any intervention, you can talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks before deciding if AROM is right for you.
How much fluid will there be?
Water breaking is a bit different for everyone. It can happen in a gush or a trickle, depending on how much the amniotic sac has opened. This could be a few milliliters trickling out, or a cup or more of water.
After your water breaks, you will continue to leak some fluid until your baby is here. Your body will continue to create fluid to keep baby lubricated and safe.
What should I do when my water breaks?
Once your water breaks, call your doctor and doula and tell them about your fluid’s C.O.A.T. They will help guide you on the next steps.
Color- Amniotic fluid should be clear, and may have some white flecks in it. If the color is yellow, green, or brownish, that could mean that baby has had a bowel movement (meconium) in utero. Meconium in the water warrants an immediate trip to the hospital.
Odor- The fluid could have a mild or musky smell. A strong odor may indicate infection.
Amount- Did you experience a trickle or a gush?
Time- Note the time that your water broke. Doctors will want to know how long your water has been broken, as there is an increased risk of infection over time.
Once your water has broken, it’s important to keep the area clean to avoid infection. Nothing should go into the vagina, except for your doctor’s gloved fingers for a vaginal check (if consented). You can wear a maxi pad to keep your panties and vaginal area clean, dry, and comfortable.
If you suspect there is meconium in the water or there is smell of infection, immediately call your doctor and go in to get checked.
What does it feel like?
It shouldn’t hurt when your water breaks. Some women report a popping feeling in their abdomen, and then water trickling down their legs.
Some women feel a small or large trickle and worry they’ve peed themselves before realizing it’s their water breaking.
If you’re unsure if it’s water breaking or pee, try urinating in the bathroom and then lie down on your side for 10-15 minutes. This will give a chance for water to pool in your vagina. If you stand up and feel it come running out, this is a strong indication that you water has broken.
If you aren’t sure if your water just broke, you can still note the C.O.A.T. and give your doctor and doula a call. They can ask you some clarifying questions to help.
What happens next?
A phone call to your doctor and doula will give you some more insight into what to do next.
Some doctors tell patients to come in right away, while others advise you to stay home a little longer and track your contractions. It really depends on the C.O.A.T., how far along you are, where you’re at in labor, or if contractions have started at all.
If the idea of labor starting or water breaking leaves you feeling anxious or panicky, your doula can help. She will give you more insight into what is happening in your body, and what you could expect next as labor progresses and you head to the hospital for birth. She also knows many comfort techniques that will help you feel more relaxed, and work through your contracts one by one as they come.
Doulas of Shanghai has qualified and experienced birth doulas to help reduce anxiety and leave you feeling more confident as you prepare for labor. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.
Not sure if you’re feeling labor contractions or Braxton Hicks? Learn about the differences here.
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