When you feel leaking while pregnant, you’ll be caught off-guard and may be slightly embarrassed. Even if no one can see the leak, the mere feeling may leave you running in the other direction and scared that something may be wrong with your pregnancy.
Leaking amniotic fluid is often called “pregnancy discharge,” and there are several reasons that it can occur.
But, you need to fully understand what this fluid is before we dive deeper into symptoms, signs, causes and treatment options.
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What is Amniotic Fluid?
The fetus is beginning to grow, and you know that one day your “water” will break and you’ll give birth. As your fetus grows in the uterus, amniotic fluid will surround the fetus to act as a protectorate. The fluid will ensure that:
- The uterus doesn’t contract too tightly
- The baby is cushioned properly
Without amniotic fluid, your baby would not be nearly as protected. The fluid isn’t present all of the time. Instead, it takes approximately two weeks after fertilization occurs for the fluid to start being produced and protect the fetus.
All of the fluid is pushed into an amniotic sac wall. Two membranes make up the wall itself: chorion and amnion. These membranes work to ensure that the baby is properly sealed within the sac for added protection. And when your water breaks, this is really the amniotic sac wall breaking.
The broken wall will allow for all of the amniotic fluid to gush out. Now, you’ve probably seen women on television that have gallons of water gush out of them prior to birth. This isn’t always the case – it isn’t as dramatic as on television. But you will notice when your water breaks and will want to consult with a doctor because you’re likely ready to go into labor.
Causes for Leaking Amniotic Fluid
If you’re getting contractions, you’ve noticed fluid coming out and your close to giving birth, please get offline and prepare for labor. If your water has not broken but a small leak is experienced, this can be caused by numerous conditions:
1. Beginning of Labor
Before the sac completely breaks, it is put under a lot of tension and pressure. Eventually, all of this tension and pressure will cause the sac to slowly leak. This slow leaking will eventually lead to your water breaking completely and you going into labor as a result.
2. Premature Rupture
Before the body is ready to deliver, a tear or rupture of the sac may occur. Fluid will begin to leak out, and this may be a premature rupture. For the premature rupture classification to be accurate, it must occur between weeks 37 and 38.
There are numerous causes for a premature rupture, including:
- Maintaining a poor diet
- Abuse of alcohol or drugs
- Bacterial infection
- An infection in the vagina or uterus
- Past surgeries of the uterus or vagina
- Abnormal uterus development
3. Amniotic Sac Membrane Split
The least worrisome cause of leaking. Since the two membranes join to seal, these membranes can slightly split during pregnancy. If this splitting occurs, it will result in a leakage of amniotic fluid.
You may call this “pregnancy leakage,” and it should be a gush of water. And the best part is that you won’t have to be concerned. The two membranes will eventually heal and rejoin. Unless a serious complication has occurred, the two membranes will join together as they heal meaning the leaking will stop all on its own.
When Leaking Fluid Causes Complications
Every woman should be very cautious of their body while pregnant. Leaking fluid can be the sign of more serious issues, and if the fluid continues to leak, this can lead to severe complications.
If the fluid continues to leak and you haven’t sought treatment, this can lead to:
- Complications and problems with the baby’s organ development
- Infections that can eventually be spread to the fetus complicating pregnancy
- The miscarriage of the baby
Women will want to be on the lookout for leaking fluid during the first and second trimester. These two trimesters are vital to the baby’s development, and if leaking does occur, it can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth.
5 Treatments for Leaking Amniotic Fluid
The signs of leaking amniotic fluid are apparent: you begin leaking. This is different from normal discharge and will have much more fluidity. Odorless and plentiful, the fluid will soak the woman’s undergarment. If it is not time to go into labor, it will likely be a little fluid that has leaked.
The best way to determine what liquid has leaked is to smell it. if it’s odorless, it’s likely that this is amniotic fluid. And if you can ascertain the origin of the fluid, contact your doctor whom will be able to determine if the leakage is amniotic fluid leaking or not.
Before any course of treatment is provided, a medical professional will:
- Test your vitals and conduct tests to ensure no infection has occurred
- Check pH levels to get a sample of the leaking fluid
- Check for the emergence of fluid from the vagina and collect a sample
- Conduct an ultrasound to determine fluid levels and the cause for leaking fluid
Once all of this is done, your doctor will start treating leaking amniotic fluid based on how far along you are.
1. Week 24 or Earlier
Very early into the pregnancy. You’ll be admitted to the hospital and monitored. Your doctor will discuss your options at this time, but it’s too early to deliver naturally and the chances of miscarriage are elevated.
2. Week 24 – 31
Admission to the hospital will occur, and the doctor will try to delay pregnancy. Antibiotics will be given to avoid infection and steroids will be given to help the baby’s lung development in the event delivery is required.
3. Week 32 – 33
Antibiotics and steroids will be given at this time. You’ll be monitored and the doctor will begin discussing delivery options.
4. Week 34+
Close to giving birth, you’ll be admitted to the hospital for monitoring. Antibiotics are given to avoid infection and labor can be induced if necessary.
Doctors will try to help you rehydrate at this time. You will be given fluids and be prepared to have an IV attached.
The doctor may need to push fluids into the sac to further protect the baby and pad the baby for delivery. In the event that the membrane is splitting, the good news is that you’ll be monitored and the membrane is likely to heal itself. This healing will occur naturally, and once healed, the leakage will cease.
Leaking amniotic fluid can be a sign that the sac has ruptured or the membrane has split causing you to leak. If you experience leaking, you want to contact your doctor at this time. It’s never a good idea to wait and see if the leaking will stop on its own. While many women experience leaking that is not dangerous to the uterus, you’ll want to be extra cautious at this time. In most cases, the doctor will conduct tests and the issue will resolve itself naturally.
If leaking occurs later on in the pregnancy, labor may be induced to prevent any possible complications from occurring.