Towards the end stage of pregnancy, a lot of women prefer to stay in their homes as they await the arrival of their baby and anticipate their waters breaking.
Many envisage them breaking in public and causing a dramatic scene, yet often, it’s not as easy to determine if your waters have broken and it’s equally as likely to be a slow stream of liquid rather than a sudden gush.
When the event does occur, be mindful that you are in control and it’s essential for you to remain composed, as this is the beginning of the birth of your newborn child.
What are Waters?
Although they are simply referred to as ‘waters’ by most people, they are far more than simply water and they themselves have had a very important role to play throughout your pregnancy.
This water or fluid is actually called amniotic fluid and has been contained within a sac surrounding your developing baby, acting much like a shock absorber and protecting them from physical damage and infection.
The sac can break before labor begins, but for some women, the water can stay intact right until the point at which the baby is engaged and you are ready to push.
However, typically your waters breaking is a classic sign that you are or will shortly begin the process of labor. That is why it’s important to inform your doctor and other relevant professionals who will be guiding you through the birthing phase.
Did My Water Break? It’s Different for Everyone
There is no single way that waters can break, it varies between women and no single birth is the same. Here are some of the most common signs your water has broken:
A Sudden Pop
If you experience an unexpected gush of fluid, then there is little doubt that your waters have broken. This is more common in mothers with a baby that is not yet engaged and is putting pressure on the cervix.
Obviously, you will see the water, but many women say that when this sudden release of fluid occurs it feels like a water hose has been let loose between their legs.
A Slow Trickle
If you experience a gradual and steady stream of water, it may be due to a small hole in the amniotic sac that is leaking water. This will usually continue until the sac is completely empty and since there is gradually less pressure, it is unlikely to burst and create a sudden gush.
Some women find it difficult to differentiate a slow and steady trickle caused by amniotic fluid from urine. In fact, many women say that at first they completely disregarded it and assumed they were having difficulties with incontinence.
Often the best way to tell is the odor, urine will have a distinctive smell and color, while amniotic fluid should have no pungent odor at all.
Believe it or not, but some women don’t even notice their waters have broken. This can be simply due to them not realizing and only noticing later due to the dampness, or sometimes can be due to them having been numbed due to an epidural. Sometimes, it occurs during labor, when their minds are understandably elsewhere!
Will Labor Start as Soon as they Break?
When your waters break, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are immediately going to begin the process of labor. The amniotic sac can rupture, resulting in the fluid escaping at any point during labor.
The best time for them to rupture is during the later stages of labor since they can help you and your baby during the process. They can do this in two main ways: by helping to prevent infections and by helping to ease contractions by acting like a shock absorber.
Some soon to be mothers actually employ a variety of methods to induce labor themselves such as the holistic approach of using pressure points.
The sac is composed of two membranes that can rupture before labor and before contractions have started. For some women, they can even break a few weeks prior to the due date. If they don’t break on their own accord, medical staff may help speed up your labor by breaking them for you.
Contractions should begin shortly after your waters have broken, but this varies tremendously, from a few hours to a few days. Of course, when they do break, the best thing to do is to get professional medical advice and assistance. They will be able to give you a definitive diagnosis and the appropriate advice.
How to Find Out If Your Waters Have Broke
If you suspect that your waters may have broken, the best thing to do is seek medical advice and expertise. Your midwife or doctor will be able to examine you and conclude whether or not they have broken.
It’s also a good idea to keep the same underwear on as any residues left behind can aid them during the examination.
During the examination, an instrument called a spectrum will be used to examine your vagina. This allows them to look for signs of your water breaking, such as water deposits. They can also make sure everything looks normal and will be able to take a swab for testing and potentially spot any signs of infection.
As well as a physical examination, a test can also be used to determine if your water has broken. This is referred to as an aminicator test and relies on a color change from orange to blue, which indicates the presence of amniotic fluid.
Occasionally it’s not possible for them to 100% determine whether your waters broke with 100% certainty. In these cases, the common sense approach of watch and wait are employed.
What do Waters look Like?
Amniotic fluid is mainly composed of water and so resembles both the color and consistency of water and is usually clear. However, sometimes it can have a slight hue of pink or yellow.
Sometimes discoloration of the amniotic fluid can be a sign of a problem, such as your baby being in distress, which is why it’s important for a medical professional to examine you and check the residues left from the fluid on your clothing.
For instance, a substance referred to as meconium is ejected from your baby’s bowel indicating a stress response. This substance can result in the fluid becoming tinted and in cases where it is extremely discolored can be cause for concern.