What Happens When Your Water Breaks?

Labor is stressful and hectic enough on its own without wondering what’s going on inside your body. That’s why we’re going over everything you need to know about your water breaking, so you know what’s happening and what to do ahead of time

What Happens When Your Water Breaks?

While your baby is developing, they’re surrounded and protected by your amniotic sac. Usually, at the beginning of or during your labor, the sac will rupture—that’s your water breaking! 

Your water breaking can feel a lot of different ways—that is to say, it’s not always the dramatic dump of water you see in movies or TV shows. Sometimes it’ll just be a wet sensation in your underwear, or intermittent leaking of small amounts of fluid, and sometimes it’s the classic gush of clear or pale yellow fluid. 

How Can You Tell For Sure?

If you experience the wet sensation or a little trickle of fluid, it can be hard to tell if your water has broken—not to mention, amniotic fluid and urine look pretty similar. If you think your water may have broken, the safest next step is to call your doctor right away and head to the hospital. There, they can give you a physical exam to determine whether or not you’re leaking amniotic fluid. Sometimes they’ll perform an ultrasound to check your amniotic fluid volume. Your doctor will let you know what the best course of action is from there. 

How Soon Will Labor Start?

If labor hasn’t begun by the time your water breaks, it will usually follow shortly after. Sometimes, though, your water breaks and labor doesn’t start. That’s when your doctor might choose to induce your uterine contractions to get labor started. You can read more about induced labor here

It’s important to remember that the longer it takes for your labor to start after your water has broken, the higher the chances are of your baby getting an infection—so if your water has broken, don’t wait until contractions start to call your doctor. It’s always best to be on the safe side. 

What if Your Water Breaks Too Early?

Preterm prelabor rupture of membranes, or preterm PROM, is the term used to describe someone’s water breaking before their 37th week of pregnancy. There are a few things that could potentially be signs of preterm PROM:

  • History of preterm PROM in a previous pregnancy
  • Inflammation of the fetal membranes
  • Vaginal bleeding during the second and third trimesters
  • Smoking or using illicit drugs while pregnant
  • Being underweight with poor nutrition
  • Short cervical length

Some of the potential complications of preterm PROM include:

  • Maternal or fetal infection
  • Placental abruption
  • Umbilical cord problems
  • Complications associated with premature birth

If you’re at least 34 weeks pregnant and you have preterm PROM, your doctor might recommend that you deliver regardless to avoid infection. If there aren’t any signs of infection, your doctor might allow your pregnancy to continue as long as you’re monitored carefully. 

If you’re between 24 and 34 weeks pregnant, your doctor will do their best to delay delivery until your baby is further along in development. You’ll be given some antibiotics to prevent infection, as well as an injection of potent steroids to accelerate your baby’s lung maturity. If you’re less than 32 weeks pregnant, and at risk for delivering soon, your doctor might give you magnesium sulfate to protect your baby’s nervous system. 

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