You might have seen in the movies how a pregnant woman realizes she is ready for child birth when her water breaks. In real life, it might not be that dramatic. Your contractions can precede your water breaking. It can be a part of the labour process and in your discomfort, you might not to register it.
- What happens when your water breaks? When your water breaks the bag of membranes full of amniotic fluid which protects and cushions your baby is what ruptures. The fluid leaks out of your cervix and vagina. When you are full term this is a natural process. But sometimes it can happen before you go into labour.
- When does it usually happen? For most women the water breaks towards the end of the first stage of labour. Sometimes the water breaks before the contractions start. In a rare case for some women the water breaks even earlier, before they are 37 weeks pregnant. This is called pre-term pre-labour rupture of membranes. This means that you are having a premature delivery.
- What should I do once the water breaks? Keep calm to begin with! Make arrangements to go to the hospital. Wear a sanitary pad to protect your clothes. Amniotic fluid has a tinge of yellow and might be blood stained. Put a plastic sheet on the car seat before you sit. By the end of the third trimester you are carrying around 800ml of fluid which is right now flowing out of your body.
- What if the contractions still do not start? You could wait for some time to see if they start. Or your doctor can induce contractions. Usually, contractions should start within 24 to 48 hours after the water breaks. Waiting to induce labour beyond 24 hours might leave you at risk for the uterus and vaginal infections. If you decide to wait for 24 hours you will need to:
- Have the baby’s heart rate and movements checked by the doctor
- Check your temperature and skin for rashes.
- Changes in the colour and smell of the amniotic fluid.
- Check that your baby is moving as usual.
- What should I do after 24 hours? Being induced after your water has broken will not increase your risk of needing a caesarian. Induced labour is not more painful or intense. You will have to weigh the risk of an infection against the likelihood of going into labour naturally and listen to what your doctor feels is best.
Your doctor is the person to guide you through this. Make sure you clear all your questions with them and also ask about the options available. The important thing is not to panic and stay positive.