Water Breaking During Pregnancy

Water Breaking

Less than 10% of expectant mothers get to experience the ‘moment’ when the water breaks. Many women assume the statistics are the opposite, and are concerned when they begin to feel contractions and go into labor, and they are still waiting for the water to break. In fact, up to 33% of these women delay contacting their health care provider because their water hasn’t broke. The truth is, many women have their water broken for them at the hospital, or their water breaks after they are in labor.

When Will My Water Break?

The water we’re talking about is actually amniotic fluid. Amniotic fluid surrounds the baby during the entire pregnancy in a sac, or bag (as it’s sometimes called). The outer layer of the sac is called chorion. The chorion is strengthened by the collagen (a fibrous connective tissue usually found in ligaments, cartilage, and tendons). Towards the end of the pregnancy the amount of collagen begins to decrease which makes the chorion weaker. Sooner or later your water will break, as water gushes for a second, followed by a steady leak.

Some women have reported hearing a popping sound right before their water breaks, however there are not many scientific studies showing how often this happens. Other women experience symptoms such as trickling or wetness in the perineal area. Sometimes women confuse amniotic fluid leakage with vaginal fluid, which is known to increase towards the end of a pregnancy. On the other hand, leaking amniotic fluid is sometimes confused by urine or other vaginal fluid.

What are Water Breaking Signs?

If your water breaks, you will definitely feel a rush of water as the amniotic fluid pools in the vagina. A steady stream of amniotic fluid usually continues to leak out after the initial rush of water. There are no over-the-counter tests you can purchase to see if the water vaginal discharge or amniotic fluid. Only doctors can perform tests on the fluid to determine whether or not your water has broken. After arriving at the hospital the doctor will test your fluid one of two ways; placing the fluid on nitrazine paper to test the ph levels of alkaline in the fluid, or by placing the fluid under the microscope to look for the ferning appearance it gives off.

What Should I do if My Water Breaks?

The first thing you should do is grab a pen and paper. Write down the time it broke, the color and appearance of the fluid, as well as anything else that is unique about it. Then call your doctor immediately. He or she will probably want you to head to your birthing location to prepare for labor. If you haven’t packed a hospital bag, now would be a good time. You shouldn’t worry about contacting family and friends right away, as the staff can usually assist you with that once you’ve arrived at the hospital.

Once you’re in the care of your health care provider, he or she will determine whether or not your water has broken. If you are full term, your doctor will probably induce you if labor hasn’t begun within 24 hours. If you are not full term, your doctor will take necessary steps to prolong delivery until your baby’s lungs can reach maturity.

When Should I Contact My Doctor?

If you begin to experience any form of leakage toward the end of your pregnancy you should contact your doctor. It is possible that there has been a rupture in your amniotic sac. When there is a rupture or break in your sac it can cause infections. Labor usually begins within 24 hours of a woman’s water breaking, so it’s important that you seek medical attention if you experience any symptoms.

[Page updated June 2014]