What Happens When Your Water Breaks
You are pregnant and suddenly there is a pool of water at your feet. Or maybe, it’s just a trickle and you think, “Did I just wet my pants?” Chances are, your “water” just broke. The medical term for this is the “rupture of membranes” or “ROM.” (If you haven’t reached 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is called the premature rupture of membranes, or PROM.)
Whatever you call it, it means the baby is probably coming soon.
During pregnancy, your baby sits inside your womb in a sac filled with a watery fluid called amniotic fluid. This fluid contains water, nutrients, hormones, and infection-fighting substances called antibodies. It cushions and protects your baby as he or she grows. It also helps the baby’s lungs, muscles, bones, and digestive system grow.
This sac usually breaks open right before you go into labor. Most women have a constant trickle of fluid. Only 1 in 10 has a huge gush.
Sometimes, the water does not break, and your doctor or midwife may need to do it for you. Never, ever try to break your own water. This can be dangerous to you and the baby.
Here’s what you need to do if your water breaks:
- Note the color and odor of the fluid. Amniotic fluid is clear and odorless.
- Call your doctor, nurse, or midwife. Call right away if you are not at least 37 weeks pregnant. Call within a few hours if you are within 3 weeks of your due date. There is an easy, painless test to tell if your water really did break, or if you just leaked some urine. (It’s common to leak urine during pregnancy.)
- If your water breaks and you are having contractions, go to the hospital or childbirth delivery center. Most women go into labor soon after the water breaks.
- If your water breaks before 3 weeks of your due date, you may be given medicines to stop labor.
- If you are 37 or more weeks pregnant and do not go into labor soon, your doctor or midwife may give you medicines to speed up your contractions. The longer it takes for labor to start after your water breaks, the more likely you are to get an infection.
- Ask if you will be given antibiotics if your water breaks. Many health care providers routinely prescribe antibiotics when the water breaks in a pregnant woman who is at least 37 weeks pregnant. The antibiotics are used to prevent infections in the baby and mother. The U.S Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend antibiotics for all pregnant women who are carriers of bacteria called group B streptococcus, or GBS. Your doctor or nurse will test you for this during a prenatal exam. Women who do not carry these bacteria may be given antibiotics if they do not go into labor about 18 hours after their water breaks.
The highly trained obstetrical teams at Good Samaritan Hospital of San Jose are available 24 hours a day. For more information about maternity care at Good Samaritan, call (408) 559-2011.