One of the most common reasons women come into the hospital during their pregnancy is because they think their water may have broken. Sometimes it can be so hard to tell!! It’s not usually like the movies when you feel a huge “gush” and immediately have regular painful contractions. There can be a wide variation to how and when your water breaks. Here is some helpful information based on my 15 years of experience with pregnant moms.
What is your water?
Your “water” is an amniotic sac filled with fluid that surrounds your baby during pregnancy. This sac will break at some point before the baby is born. It will either break on its own before or during labour or have to be broken by your doctor or midwife.
What does my water breaking feel like?
This can feel very different to every woman. When the water breaks there will be warm fluid leaking from your vagina until the baby is born. Some women feel a ‘pop’ and then a large gush of fluid where some women just feel a small steady trickle. Other women feel neither and just feel a bit wet. Unlike urine, you will not be able to stop this fluid from coming out. It will just keep coming! This can feel very weird and uncomfortable for some women.
Amniotic fluid should be clear but may have a pink or yellow tinge. There may even be streaks of red. If the fluid is green, has an unusual odor or is more bloody then you are comfortable with then that needs to be assessed. Put a pad on and go get checked out.
When to get checked out by your health care provider?
If at any point in your pregnancy you are unsure if your water has broken it is best to get it checked out. There are several tests your health care team can do to determine if your water has broken or if what you are feeling is just normal vaginal discharge or urine. My usual advice to moms is if you are feeling more wetness then normal put a pad on and wait for 1 hr. If the pad is wet in an hour go get checked.
If it is determined that your water has broken but you are not having any contractions you may be able to go home for a while and wait for contractions to start on their own. Most women will go into labour within 12-24 hrs of their water breaking. This is a decision you can discuss with your partner and health care team. If labour does not start on its own you may need to be induced into labour. This is done to help minimize the risk of infection and usually involves IV medications to start contractions.
All this advice is based on a healthy term pregnancy. If you are before 37 weeks pregnant or are GBS + you should go get assessed as soon as you think your water may have broken. You should also get checked sooner if you have any other concerns in your pregnancy such as breech presentation, placenta previa, twins or planning to delivery via cesarian section.
As always if you are ever concerned or just not sure it is okay to go in and be assessed. Trust your instincts!