Water breaking refers to the rupture of the membrane of the amniotic sac, the bag that surrounds and cushions the baby. Water breaking is an important sign of labor and it is normal to be curious and anxious about this step in labor. Understanding and recognizing this sign will be helpful in being prepared for labor and also be aware of its importance in the timeline of delivery.
As the amniotic sac ruptures, you may feel a wetness in the vagina. It may be a trickle or gush of fluid and differs from woman to woman. Many often feel it difficult to distinguish between urine and amniotic fluid. This is particularly true in women who have a trickle or just wetness in the vagina. Some may have a gush of fluid all on a sudden. If you are full-term and not sure whether the water has broken, do contact your doctor for an examination. This will help them to decide on the next steps.
In most of the cases, labor starts immediately after the breaking of water. If the water breaks before the labor starts, it is called premature rupture of membrane. In premature rupture, the doctor may induce labor to reduce the risk of infection to the baby. If the water breaks before the 37th week of pregnancy, it is called preterm premature rupture of membrane (preterm PROM). It may lead to complications like maternal and fetal infections, placental abruption, and umbilical cord issues.
If you are 34 weeks or more into pregnancy with preterm PROM, your doctor may recommend delivery to reduce the risk of infection to the baby. If you are between 24th and 34th week of pregnancy doctor may recommend delaying delivery until the baby is more mature. In such cases, antibiotics are prescribed to reduce the risk of infection for the baby and the mother. Corticosteroids are recommended to speed up the growth of baby’s lungs.
If the water does not break on its own and your body is ready for labor, doctor may induce labor. This is usually done by a procedure called amniotomy in which a hook is used to make a small opening in the amniotic sac to break the water.