Any first time mom believes that she will know when her water breaks. After all, when you watch in the movies and in television shows, they are at a restaurant or some other public place and there is a mad rush of water and they have a baby. This is not what always happens. Some women do not even know their water has broken or some women’s water never breaks until the very end of labor.
First off, let us discuss what the term “water breaking” actually means. During your pregnancy, a fluid-filled sac called ‘the amniotic sac’ surrounds your baby. This fluid provides cushion and warmth to your baby throughout your pregnancy. When the time comes to deliver your baby, your membranes will rupture, or in other words, your water will break.
If it is close to your due date and you notice some wetness or leaking in your underwear, this may be a sign your water is broken. First, take a look at the color, odor, amount, and take note of the time you noticed it. If it is clear or a pale yellow color, it may be amniotic fluid. Smell it. If it smells like urine, it probably is urine. It is not uncommon to have no complete control of you bladder during pregnancy.
If your underwear is soaked, it probably was your water breaking. If you are still not sure, change your underwear and place a pad or panty liner in your underwear. Lay down for about half an hour. After half an hour, get up and check. Usually, when you are lying down and if it is amniotic fluid, it will pool in the vagina.
If it is still early in your pregnancy, but you are continuously having discharge, your provider may test the fluid. There are two different tests that may be done. The first is done during a vaginal exam, by placing a piece of litmus paper in your vaginal area. If the litmus paper changes color when it comes into contact with the fluid, it means it is amniotic fluid. If the paper does not change color, it means it is not amniotic fluid.
The other test that may be done is by taking a sample of the discharge and examining it under a microscope. When the sample is dry, the pattern it shows under the microscope is a ferning pattern. A ferning pattern looks like a row of tiny fern leaves. If this pattern appears, it means your water has broken.
As mentioned above, there are several sensations you may feel when your water breaks. Let us take a look at the most common sensations or experiences you may have.
- The huge gush!
This is what we most commonly see in the movies. This is when a huge gush of water, or amniotic fluid, bursts all over the floor. You have no control over it.
- Popping sensation.
A lot of women describe a popping sensation or even that they hear a small “pop” right before their water breaks. Some women may be lying down and hear a pop. When they get up, that is when their water gushes.
- The trickle.
Some women may stand and all of a sudden feel a little trickle of fluid going down their legs. They have no control over it so they know it is not urine. It continuously trickles down, without stopping.
Some women may go through all stages of labor without their water breaking. At some point, while pushing and the baby moving down the birth canal, that may cause your water to rupture, which will give you immediate relief.
In a lot of cases when women notice a discharge and are not sure whether it is their water breaking, it usually is just mucus. Later in the pregnancy and the closer you get to delivering, your cervix begins to soften and you may lose your mucus plug. Sometimes, so much mucus is released that a panty liner may be necessary. If the fluid is thicker and whiter, it probably is just mucus.
When your water breaks, keep in mind these three precautions:
- When your water breaks, your baby is exposed to infection. The protection that your baby had with the amniotic fluid is no longer there.
- Infections can travel in your vagina upward. Avoiding the number of times you are checked and any other situations is ideal.
- If you need to use something between the times your water breaks and to the hospital, make sure you are using sanitary napkins to prevent infection.
Sometimes, there are cases where your provider may have to break your water. If a woman has had increased and intense contractions, but no progression of the baby coming down the birth canal, your provider may want to break your water. Breaking your water can help speed up the labor process. Having your water broken by your provider may also be recommended because it needs to be tested for meconium. Meconium is the first sticky poop, which can possibly be inhaled by the baby, if not caught in time.
It is highly recommended to allow your water to break on its own. Whether this is at the very beginning of stages of labor or at the very end.It will happen when it happens. There are pros and cons that go either way to having it broken for you or doing it on its own. Being informed and knowing all of these pros and cons is recommended before going into labor.