There’s nothing black and white about childbirth. For one woman, the experience might last six hours, whereas another mom might labor for 37. From episiotomies to epidurals, there are variables aplenty, ensuring each woman’s experience in labor and delivery is a unique one.
While movies and television like to tell us that each woman’s labor begins with a splash of amniotic fluid, real life tells another story. In fact, only 15 percent of moms experience their water breaking before contractions begin. You may feel contractions well before your water bag ruptures – or it may not break on its own at all. You may experience a dramatic gush of fluids – or mistake a small trickle for urine or discharge.
Your water broke. Now what?
If you suspect that your water has broken, but you can’t be certain, we encourage you to call your health practitioner. He or she may advise you to move around your home bare-bottomed. If the fluid continues to trickle and reaches the floor, chances are your water has broken. If you still can’t determine, your doctor or midwife can perform an in-office test to check for the presence of amniotic fluid in your vagina.
If you’re certain your water bag has ruptured, check in with your midwife or doctor. He or she will start the countdown to delivery. Most health care providers will give a mom-to-be with a broken water bag 24 hours before inducing labor. This helps to prevent infection and ensure your little one’s safety.
What to do when contractions don’t start
Let’s say your water has broken, but your contractions haven’t started. It’s safe to say that labor is imminent. Because a ruptured amniotic sac increases the risk of infection, there are some important safety measures to take:
- Don’t have sex (as if you’d really want to anyway at this point!)
- Don’t use a tampon. If you need some protection, opt for a maxi pad.
- Don’t take a bath unless you have the go-ahead from your doctor or midwife.
- Don’t attempt an at-home exam. Wait until your health care provider can do a cervical check.
- Do keep the area clean by wiping front to back after using the restroom.
If you feel something other than fluid inside your vagina after your water breaks, call 911. While it’s rare, there are instances where baby’s umbilical cord has been pushed into the vagina when a woman’s water breaks. This prolapsed cord can be dangerous to you and baby. Remember that every woman’s experience with labor and delivery is different. If you have any concerns about your water breaking, we urge you to contact your doctor or midwife.