Water Breaking During Pregnancy
By now, you've no doubt lost a night or two's sleep over when and where your water (your amniotic sac) will break — because you've heard (or seen on TV) one or two horror stories about a pregnant woman's water breaking in an inconvenient (no, make that humiliating) time and place (like in the middle of a busy sidewalk at lunch hour, or at a jam-packed mall on a Saturday morning). But your reality show will probably be a little different.
What it is and what causes it?
Your "water breaking" is in fact the rupture of the amniotic sac that signals your baby is getting ready to be born. No one knows for sure what triggers the chemical chain reaction that begins labor around week 40 of pregnancy, but experts point to a number of complicated factors, including brain signals from the fetus. ("Ready or not, here I come, Mom!")
What you need to know
Don't worry too much about your water breaking when you're on a checkout line: Only a very small percentage of women (about 15 percent) experience the rupture of the amniotic sac before they go into labor, so chances are good you'll have plenty of warning (or you'll already be in the hospital). Even if your water does break in public, it probably won't come as an embarrassing flood but rather a slow trickle (or a small gush) of colorless and odorless amniotic fluid. (If the fluid is yellowish and smells of ammonia, it's probably urine.) Put a call in to your practitioner, but keep in mind that your labor contractions may not begin right away, and labor may not start for another 12 to 24 hours. (You won't run out of amniotic fluid in the meantime — your body continues to produce it right up until delivery.) If your contractions don't start on their own within 24 hours, your practitioner will likely induce you to get your labor started.
What you can do
Your practitioner has probably given you a set of instructions to follow when your water breaks. Follow them. If you don't remember the instructions or have any doubts about how to proceed, call - night or day.
If your instructions are to wait for contractions over the next 12 hours or so, you'll need to guard yourself and your baby against infection now that the protective barrier of the amniotic sac has been breached. Use maxi pads, not tampons, to keep the amniotic fluid from wetting your clothes, and keep your vaginal area clean. When you go to the bathroom, be especially careful to wipe from front to back. And not that you're likely to be in the mood, but sexual intercourse is officially off-limits.
Call the doctor right away if:
- Your water breaks and the fluid looks green or brown, which may mean your baby had a bowel movement in utero (known as meconium).
- If you're 37 weeks pregnant or less (though it's extremely unlikely this will happen).
- If you feel something in your vagina or see the umbilical cord at the vaginal opening – you could be experiencing a rare condition called cord prolapse.