Water Breaking — Understanding this Sign of Labour


If you are pregnant, it’s understandable that you will be curious about  labour and childbirth. Knowing what to expect is important as it lets you know the signs of labour and readies you for delivery. You may have heard the term ‘water breaking’ but knowing when it occurs, what you would feel, and what to do when the water breaks, are helpful.



What happens when the water breaks?

During pregnancy, your baby develops inside the amniotic sac which is filled with clear or pale straw-coloured fluid. The unborn baby floats and moves inside the amniotic sac which cushions it from injuries. Normally, the membranes rupture prior to or during labour, and this is termed as water breaking. If this happens before labour, it is known as premature rupture of membranes (PROM).

When water breaking occurs, you may feel wetness on your perineum or in your vagina or experience leaking of small amounts of watery fluid constantly from your vagina or a gush of clear or yellow coloured fluid.

How to be sure of water breaking?

It is not always easy to determine if the water has broken or not. If you experience a sensation of wetness, it is difficult to differentiate whether it is urine or amniotic fluid. Your doctor or midwife will examine you to determine if the water has broken or not. In some cases, ultrasounds are done to confirm the water breaking.

Risks associated with water breaking too early

Water breaking before the completion of the 37th week of pregnancy is known as preterm premature rupture of membranes. When you have a preterm PROM, delivery is recommended to avoid infections after 34 weeks But if preterm PROM occurs between 24th and 34th week of pregnancy, delivery may be delayed until the baby is more developed. Your doctor will provide the necessary treatment to prevent infections.

The risks associated with water breaking too early may include:

  • Placental abruption
  • Maternal or foetal infection
  • Complications due to premature birth

Factors responsible for water breaking too early may include:

  • Preterm PROM in previous pregnancy
  • Underweight
  • Infection
  • Vaginal bleeding in the second and third trimester
  • Short cervical length
  • Smoking during pregnancy

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What if water breaking does not occur naturally?

Generally, the water breaks during active labour. If your water does not break on its own, your doctor will perform an amniotomy by making a small opening in the amniotic sac using a specialised tool such as an amnicot or amnihook to accelerate labour.

Though you cannot predict when water breaking will occur, remaining educated about it is necessary to help you remain comfortable and calm in case your water does not break in time or breaks early.

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