Article updated on July 2023.
As you know, you can break your water at any time and in any place. Imagine a mother who breaks her water in the grocery store, in the frozen foods section. What a surprise! It can be a shock…so tell me about your stories, as I love reading them.
Water can break on its own or artificially, using a tool to break the membrane (little hook). When the water breaks, it won’t hurt the mother as she isn’t innervated. When her water breaks, a hot liquid will flow down her thigh, and she now knows that her baby is coming.
Membranes breaking is a normal physiological process that occurs for many reasons, irrespective of the gestational age. In 8% of cases, it will happen on its own at term due to the gradual weakening of the membranes combined with the force of uterine contractions. 90% of women will go into spontaneous labour within 24 hours after their water breaks.
If a woman’s water breaks naturally and she has little or no contractions afterwards, the doctor will assess the general state of health of both mother and baby before deciding whether to induce immediately or not. If everything is normal, you can wait 24 hours before inducing labour, to give nature time to begin its work towards a more spontaneous birth. However, if the mother has a positive streptococcus test, for example, or other particular conditions, the doctor may lean more towards immediate induction to avoid potential complications in the circumstances.
If the water breaks prematurely (2-3.5% of cases), before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it will take longer for labour to start, and only in 50% of cases will it actually start. We also know that premature water breaking can be the result of different causes, such as an infection (ex.: bacterial vaginosis), twin pregnancy or premature labour. The exact cause can remain unknown.
Usually, the liquid is clear as water, but can also be yellowish or greenish on occasion. The green colour comes from the fact that the baby passes stool in your uterus (amniotic sac) and meconium (first baby stool, forest-green in colour) mixes with the amniotic fluid, colouring it green. If this occurs, you should call the hospital to advise them of your arrival. Also tell them the colour of your amniotic fluid, as their instructions on what to do before arrival may vary.
Consequently, when you spontaneously break your water, always note the time and the colour of the liquid.
And yes, even without contractions, breaking your water is a reason to go to the hospital as there is a potential risk of infection. Your baby is no longer protected from the outside environment. If you had contractions before breaking your water, expect an increase in their intensity as your baby’s head is now pushing directly on your cervix. There is no longer a sort of cushion between the two. After breaking water, labour will progress more rapidly in most cases.
Vaginal examinations are not recommended after water breaks because of the higher risk of infection. If needed, the caregiver will use a sterile speculum for the exam. You may need to have your labour induced to reduce the risk of infection for mother and baby.
Don’t forget to tell me about your water breaking stories!
Watch the video about breaking water.
The Baby Expert