We’ve all seen the movies: a woman sitting at a restaurant stands up to leave, usually in the middle of a huffed conversation, and her waters burst all of a sudden leaving her and the onlookers surprised. “It’s time!” she announces, and is whisked away to the hospital to promptly give birth.
Anyone who’s had a baby before will know just how nonsensical this is, and for those who have yet to experience the miracle of childbirth, you probably know just how far fetched it is too. The reality of the situation is that your waters can break any time through pregnancy, although most commonly not until you’re actually in the middle of labour.
Your waters, or amniotic fluid held by membranes, are the lovely fluids thing which protects your baby in the womb during pregnancy. Any time you rolled, jumped, walked, or applied any pressure to your belly, this wonderful sac was there to protect your baby. However, as you come near to the end of your pregnancy the chance that the sac is about to rupture becomes even higher.
When Will My Waters Break?
This is one of those wonderful unknowns about the whole pregnancy process, and one that can leave mothers feeling a little uneasy. There are three periods in which the amniotic sac can be ruptured, leading to your waters breaking, including:
- Spontaneous Rupture At Term (SROM) is when your waters break naturally during labour, and is the most common time. The pressure of the baby arriving will cause the sac to rupture and you’ll feel a rush of warm liquid as it does.
- Premature Rupture At Term (PROM) happens to around 10% of expectant mothers from 37 weeks onward, and usually 24 hours before their labour process begins. It can be caused by Braxton Hicks contractions, stress, infections, or having too much fluid in the sac.
- Preterm Premature Rupture At Term (PPROM) is when your waters break before 37 weeks gestation. A quarter of all premature births are due to this, as when the amniotic sac breaks the conditions inside the womb are no longer as safe for your baby. This can be due to infections, a weak cervix, multiple babies, or early activation of the membrane enzymes which break the sac.
For some women, their waters may never break at all. This can prompt your obstetrician or midwife to break them manually for you during labour using a large, plastic hook. Although it might sound painful, it’s only a little uncomfortable and usually a welcome intervention for mothers who are eager to progress with their labour.
In the rare case they never break, even with medical intervention, it’s known as a caul birth. You might have seen an incredible viral video doing the rounds recently of a mother who delivered her baby while it was still enclosed in the sac, but as amazing as it is, it’s an extremely rare event.
What To Do When Your Waters Break
One of the most frustrating things about being pregnant (to add to the long, long list) is not knowing when your waters have actually broken. Because pregnancy already blesses us with a range of new and confusing symptoms, such as a leaking bladder or increase in discharge, you can spend a good chunk of your time wondering whether it’s amniotic fluid or something else.
When your waters do break, there’ll be some tell-tale signs that can help you spot the real deal. If you experience any of the following, get in touch with the hospital or your midwife to have them assess.
- You’ll have no control over the flow of liquid and won’t be able to hold it in as you could with urine;
- The fluid won’t have a smell to it, and won’t have the noticeable odour that urine does;
- Placing a pad in your underwear to soak up a leak and having to change it more than once;
- You feel a constant stream of liquid, whether it’s a large gush or just a slight trickle;
If you’re certain that it’s the real deal, make a note of what time it started and let somebody know. You might think now your contractions should naturally start any minute, but it isn’t always the case.
For some women, the sac simply breaks with no follow on movement from their baby, or the fluid contains a brown/greenish material. In these cases, you’ll need to call the hospital for advice – which will likely be to come on in for closer monitoring.
Enjoy the Ride
Our waters breaking is one of the most anticipated parts of labour, next to the actual birth itself, so it can leave women feeling a whole range of emotions as they wait for it to occur. Try to relax and understand that our bodies usually know what they’re doing, and it’s just one small part of the miracle of childbirth.
If this knowledge fails to calm you, you might want to avoid restaurants in the weeks prior to your due date, just in case you water breaks before it’s time to pay the bill. To relieve some more of your motherhood and pregnancy worries, check out the rest of our blog posts here at Peachymama.