Are you pregnant or a close acquaintance of someone who is close to giving birth? Then congratulations and hats off to you! There are many women who wish they enjoyed your blessed privilege. As the due date draws nearer, you must be getting quite anxious about giving birth. Although your little one is safely cushioned by a fluid-filled amniotic sac, at some point it will inevitably tear – naturally or doctor provoked. The process is termed “water breaking”.
Surely, by now you’ve heard many horror stories about how it all goes down. Don’t believe everything you hear. For approximately 90% of expecting moms, water breaking will occur spontaneously during labor. Only 8% to 15% of them will actually undergo this before labor contractions occur.
Nevertheless, countless expecting mothers dread that moment, wondering whether they’ll be out shopping, driving, at the hair salon, or having dinner at a friend’s house when it happens. Then, another concern surfaces: “What does it feel like when your water breaks?” Neither apprehensive scenario should be intimidating.
By the end of this post, your mind should be at ease. You’ll be focusing intently on your bundle of joy that’s anxious to get here. They will bring you happiness beyond measure.
Signs Of Water Breaking Before Giving Birth
Some four to six weeks prior to giving birth, your body will be subjected to changes as it prepares you for the delivery of your little boy or girl. For first time mommies, the baby “drops,” cuddling up into the pelvis, taking position for the grand entrance. Your cervix begins to open and to thin out, your uterine muscles start relaxing, and joints loosen up preparing for your baby’s arrival.
A few days before you go into labor, you’ll have a thickened pinkish discharge (called the bloody show). You will lose your mucous plug, which is the cork that seals your uterus. This is a clue that you’ll be giving birth soon. It’s a sign that your water will break either voluntarily or involuntarily (by your OBGYN). Not many symptoms of water breaking prior to giving birth exist. It’s a natural phenomenon that does not give a specific cautionary warning.
Water breaking merely happens when the time is right. Most moms-to-be are already in labor when their water breaks. It is important not to confuse water breaking or amniotic fluid with vaginal fluid, which increases as you near labor. Likewise, be careful not to assume that amniotic fluid is urine or some other vaginal discharge.
What Does It Feel Like?
Each labor experience is different, even for repeat mothers. When your water breaks, you might feel an erratic or a constant dribble of liquid. Many moms hear a distinct popping noise immediately before their water breaks. One mother explains that with her first child, her water did not break until she was deep into labor. However, with her second child, it felt like a water balloon “popped” and then the water all surged out.
This sensation seems to happen particularly if you are lying down. Then a steady, uncontainable soaking appears next. You might also feel a warm dripping of fluid running down your legs when you stand up. Over the years, many considerate moms have shared their water breaking stories of how it happened and what it felt like.
Some expecting mothers have reported a trickling of fluid, feeling wet in their perineal area. Evonne Lack published various accounts of water breaking over at BabyCenter.com, where several moms-to-be disclosed their occurrences. The descriptions were basically the same whether they emerged at home, at the hospital, or some other place.
It appears that a lot of women underwent the mighty rushing waters encounter. Their water breaking came like a warm thrust of fluid from deep inside. “It was as though a 5-gallon bucket of water spilled out”, one mom recounted. “It was a flood, a gush, a BIG GUSH – like someone placed a water hose on full blast between my legs.” Yet another said it felt like small gushes. Imagine a heavy period dripping down your leg. Conversely, for others it was a slow, steady, and uncontrollable leakage of warm fluid.
One expectant lady revealed while lying in bed, she felt a “pop”. Her husband heard it, too! Then there was a warm sensation as fluid flowed out. There was an audible “pop” that woke another lady from a dead sleep. As soon as she stood up, the “leaking” stopped. Others testified that there was a clear “pop” and the flood gates opened. It felt as if they’d lost control of their bladders.
In another sensation, there was a snap, like someone cracking a knuckle, and then a rush of incredibly warm amniotic fluid. It didn’t hurt, it was just suddenly very wet. Another woman had already been given an epidural when her water broke. To her, it felt like a balloon slid out and popped between her legs. The water jetted out. One mom said there was no popping observation or anything. Each time she lay down she would lose a little water and when she got up, it stopped.
A lady was lying on the couch, when her stomach made a great rumbling sound. She promptly went to the bathroom. Her experience was just a slow trickle. When still another lady’s water broke, it felt bizarre because it was irrepressible. After she finished urinating, there was still a release flowing in the toilet. She said it felt like “a perpetual pee” – like urine was constantly running out and there was nothing she could do about it.
A full term mother said when her water broke she had dilated about nine centimeters. Because she was in so much discomfort, she declared it felt warm and amazing. The labor pressure and pain left her after a few moments. Another lady said she needed to push, and when she did, her water gushed out. She experienced a huge sense of relief.
There are also those moms who felt absolutely nothing. For various reasons, like having an epidural, they had no idea that there amniotic sac has been ruptured. One mother shared she didn’t even know it had broken until she noticed that she was wet. Another stated she didn’t realize it until she woke up, went to the restroom, and discovered her underwear was soggy.
Someone else said, she got up and the chair was wet where she sat. Another chimed in saying she didn’t feel anything in particular except that afterwards, the contractions hurt more. Others didn’t realize it had broken until seeing the dampness on the hospital bed. One mom expressed that she felt nothing. She just noticed some leaking during her contractions. The nurse confirmed that her water had broken.
So you see, every case really is unique. Just remember that water breaking is a natural phase of giving birth. It alerts you that something phenomenal is about to happen: your baby is very much on the way!
What Does A Mother Do When Her Water Breaks?
After your water breaks, carefully examine the substance released. It can be hard to differentiate between amniotic fluid and urine. Amniotic fluid normally has a clear whitish or straw-color. Foul-smelling fluid signals infection. If the fluid looks green or brown, your baby may have had a bowel movement (meconium staining).
Bloody fluid may signify placental abruption. This rare and severe disorder occurs when the placenta peels away from the inner wall of the uterus before the mother gives birth. As a result, she bleeds substantially and the baby is unable to get needed oxygen and nutrients.
Note the time your water broke, the visible color, and the odor of the fluid. If you observed any complications, call your OBGYN right away – especially if you you’re 37 weeks pregnant or less. A simple test will be made to ascertain whether or not the liquid is amniotic fluid.
What happens next depends on whether your labor has started, how far along you are in your pregnancy, and what the examinations reveal. Concerns for cervix problems and inflammation in the membranes will be regarded. Whether you have previously experienced premature or multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.), the stage of your baby’s development, and the possibility of vaginal, cervical or uterine infection will also be assessed.
Most probably, you will be admitted to the hospital. If you are full-term, the OBGYN may induce labor if it doesn’t begin on its own within 24 hours and if the baby is developed well enough to survive outside of the womb. It’s highly likely that preterm moms will remain under hospital care until their baby is birthed. In the case of early gestations, the OBGYN will attempt to prolong delivery so the baby’s lungs can mature.
Causes Of Water Breaking
The causes of water breaking are not well-understood, but are a part of the preparation for delivery of your baby. Rupturing of the amniotic sac membrane or “water breaking” is a standard element of giving birth that announces your baby will arrive soon. Under normal circumstances (at term, 37 weeks), a natural breaking of your double-layered amniotic sac will occur as a result of contractions. This is called Spontaneous Rupture of Membranes – SROM.
Should the amniotic sac not tear spontaneously, your OBGYN will almost certainly make an artificial incision to slit your membranes (a process called Artificial Rupture of Membranes), in order to induce your labor, or to speed it up. What makes your water break when you are pregnant depends on whether or not it happens at term or preterm, before or after labor begins.
In a small percentage of pregnancies, premature rupture of amniotic sacs occurs. This is termed Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM). It’s usually caused by several factors – such as the mother’s age, premature activation of the membrane enzymes, stress from a large baby, uneven pressure on the membranes, or from contractions in the uterus. Water breaking can be brought on by the onset of pre-labor or Braxton Hicks contractions, from a low body mass index, vaginal bleeding, smoking, and bladder, reproductive tract, or kidney infections.
Sometimes; however, simple things initiate water breaking. One mommy said that after going for a walk at the hospital to relieve her contractions, she bent over to throw up. Those pressures made her water break. Go figure.
Are There Any Ways To Prevent Water Breaking?
There are a few treatments that may prevent water breaking in women at risk for premature births, except for those mothers already displaying symptoms. Even so, none of these treatments have been found to be 100% effective. Medical interventions suspend a mother’s giving birth for only a day or two. Remedies are administered to buy time and allow mothers to be prepped for the special care they require. Some of the ways for inhibiting premature water breaking are explained below.
Antibiotics To Reduce Harmful Bacteria
HealthDay News conducted a study which found that large levels of bacteria seem to cause premature water breaking. Identifying bacteria as a certain cause for preterm tears in the amniotic sac membranes may provide alternatives for proactive rehabilitation. Dr. Amy Murtha, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Duke University School of Medicine, explains, “If we think that certain bacteria are associated with premature rupturing of the membranes, we can screen for this bacteria early in pregnancy. Treating the affected women with antibiotics might reduce their risk for this problem.”
Take Vitamin C To Strengthen The Amniotic Sac
Vitamin C boosts the immune system and may also protect against minor infections that are too insignificant to trigger warning symptoms. Conclusions from a study reported by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition states that daily supplementation with 100 mg of Vitamin C after 20 weeks of gestation effectively lessens the incidence of PROM. To preclude early breakage of the fetal membranes, the suggested 100mg dosage is in the form of mineral ascorbates. Contact your OBGYN or physician assistant regarding the benefits, risks, and appropriate dosages specific to you.
Progesterone, Antibiotics, Cerclages, And Bed-rest
Progesterone and antibiotics are utilized to prolong pregnancy in women at risk for preterm birth. Since infection is deemed to be a hazard for premature labor, antibiotics offer some relief. Cerclages are stitches in the cervix to keep it closed and help prevent premature labor. Although cerclages do not stop labor after it begins, they prolong pregnancy in some women.
Additional ways to avoid untimely water breaking include: using relaxation techniques, acupressure, keeping the bladder empty, and exercise. Bed-rest is still used to avert premature water breaking; however, it is considered to be unsuccessful and may even incite labor acceleration.
Featured photo credit: From Parenting.com Images/Public Domain via parenting.com