How Do You Know if Your Water Breaks?

Medically Reviewed on 9/22/2021
how do you know if your water breaks
When your water breaks, you may experience small amounts of watery fluid leaking from your vagina, or a more obvious gush of clear or pale-yellow fluid

When your water breaks, you may experience a sensation of wetness, an intermittent or constant leaking of small amounts of watery fluid from the vagina, or a more obvious gush of clear or pale-yellow fluid.

During pregnancy, your baby grows in your uterus and in a sac filled with amniotic fluid. This amniotic fluid acts as a cushion for the baby, regulates the temperature of the womb, and helps with fetal development. Water breaking refers to the breaking or opening of the amniotic sac, which occurs before delivery and signals the onset of the active stage of labor.

Your water may break either before or during labor, or a medical professional may break it during induction or delivery.

What causes early water breaking?

If your water breaks before week 37 of pregnancy, it is called preterm prelabor rupture of membranes (preterm PROM). Risk factors for water breaking too early include:

What are the signs of water breaking?

Your water usually breaks when you have reached week 39 of her pregnancy, when your body is ready to deliver the baby. You start to feel contractions, and your cervix thins and widens for the baby to pass through. 

Signs your water has broken include:

  • Uncontrollable leakage of fluid: Depending on whether it is a gross rupture or small tear, you may feel a gush of amniotic fluid or it may only be a slow trickle. The flow of liquid cannot be controlled and about 2.5-3 cups of fluid empties out of the amniotic sac. If the amniotic sac ruptures below the baby’s head, then fluid has built up and will gush out. However, if the rupture happens higher in the uterus, the fluid will trickle down between the sac and uterine lining.
  • Clear and odorless: In general, amniotic fluid is odorless although some women detect a peculiar smell similar to semen or chlorine. It is usually clear or tinged pink with streaks of blood.
  • Painless pressure or popping: Some women detect pressure when their water breaks. Others hear a popping noise followed by leakage. Labor contractions usually increase in frequency and intensity when your water breaks.

Water breaking may feel like urinary incontinence, which is common during the third trimester of pregnancy. 

Pregnant women may mistake the rupture of the membranes for discharge, especially if it trickles out slowly. While both amniotic fluid and vaginal discharge tend to be odorless, the latter is sticky, thick and looks like clear or milky white mucus.

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Medically Reviewed on 9/22/2021
References
Medline Plus. Premature Rupture of Membranes. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000512.htm

University of Michigan Health System. Rupture of the Membranes. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw195832

Tommy’s. Waters Breaking Early (PPROM). https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/pregnancy-complications/waters-breaking-early-pprom