Water breaking: What pregnant women must know about this labour sign

We've heard enough about water breaking, but what is it exactly and what must you do after it happens? Know it from an expert.
First time pregnancy tips
A first time pregnancy needs you to be more careful. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Shefali Tyagi Published: 29 May 2022, 16:13 pm IST
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One of the joys a woman experiences is having the power of creating and nurturing a life. The nine months of pregnancy along with happiness are also full of unlimited doubts, questions and worries. This journey turns into a real roller coaster ride at the end of the third trimester when you start waiting anxiously for your water to break or labour pains to start as your due date approaches. But what is water breaking? Come, let’s find out.

So, here is everything you need to know before your little splash.

labour pain
Your water break may happen before labour pain. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

What is water breaking?

This is the most common question asked by expectant mothers. When the baby is inside our uterus, in order to protect the baby from any harm, our body covers him/her inside a bag full of amniotic fluid. It is like being inside a castle made out of cushions, where your child stays protected. It also helps in development of lungs, hands and legs. It takes care of the shocks or bumpy rides on road so that baby is not jolted. It helps baby move freely inside the uterus. When the membrane of the bag ruptures, that fluid comes out of our vagina, and this is known as water breaking.

And unlike it is shown in movies, you are not going to have a full bucket of water coming out of you. It will be more or less like a little leak or in some cases like peeing in the pants. You might have a glass or two of fluid trickling down your legs. Mothers feel a pressure at first and then relief after bag breaks.

What to do after your water breaks?

At this important moment, instead of panicking you should firstly take some deep breaths and then plan to visit the hospital. Typically, it takes about 1 day or so for the baby to come out after water breaks. Normally, in maximum cases labour  pain begins with contractions and then water breaks. But, if water breaks before your labour has started, it is known as prelabour rupture of membranes (PROM). This condition can cause severe complications including maternal and fetal infection, abruption of placenta and problems of umbilical cord. Risk factors in case of PROM include smoking, cervix’s surgery or biopsies, uterus, vagina or cervix infections etc.In these cases, labour follows water break, and if it doesn’t, then doctor induces the labour to avoid any chance of infection to the baby.

Be aware of what your amniotic fluid looks like. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What does the amniotic fluid look like?

Water coming out is mostly odorless, colorless or tinged with blood. But in some cases, it can smell sweet like chlorine. The amount of water coming out from you depends upon the condition of tear of the bag. In cases of small tear as mentioned earlier, it feels like a small leakage down there and if there is a gross rupture, mothers can experience heavy flow which can be managed by wearing sanitary pads or placing a towel underneath. Once the bag ruptures the water continues to leak until all of it empties out from your body.

Water breaking feels quite distressful to some ladies, but in this crucial moment, connecting to your doctor and then heading out to the hospital according to the instructions given by them is necessary. Keep a clean pad, don’t panic and head to the hospital.

Sometimes, when the baby moves to the pelvic region to prepare for labour, it creates pressure on the membrane which results in breaking of amniotic sac.
If the water does not break, doctors break it artificially. As mentioned earlier, contractions start after few hours of water breaking, but if it doesn’t start in 24 to 48 hours, doctors induce labour to reduce risk of infections. However, if the water breaks, it is best to be under supervision even though your labour pains might start few hours later since baby’s well-being can be monitored better at the hospital.

Important checks after water breaking

There are somethings that a pregnant lady should keep a check on after water breaks. The sanitary pads used should be changed after every few hours whether it is wet or not.

The colour of the fluid should also be checked. It should not have any colour and should be odorless. Faint pink colour, traces of blood and mucus is mostly normal. If you notice green or brown fluid, it can be the case of meconium that is motion of the baby. In this case you should go to hospital right away.

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If you are uncertain about the water being amniotic fluid or just urine, you should consult someone to avoid any type of confusion and delay.

Also, read: 8 items to pack for your hospital bag before delivery

The last word

Water breaking is a necessary process and it takes all the lovely mothers one step closer to holding their baby. Feeling stressed is natural but you can calm your anxieties by being aware and calmly following the instructions given by your doctor.

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About the Author

Dr Shefali Tyagi, Consultant - Obstetrics & Gynaecology Motherhood, Hospitals, Sarjapur, Bengaluru ...Read More

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