If you're pregnant, one of the things you might want to know about is how to tell if your water bag broke. What does it feel like? What does it look like? Will it hurt? What should I do next? How do I know if it's really my water bag breaking?
All these questions can induce stress for sure. But before we answer these for you, we want to put your mind at ease by telling you that more than 75 percent of the time, your water bag won't break until your cervix is dilated and you are in labour.
But having said that, it's always good to be prepared and informed in case your water bag does break before labour.
How to tell if your water bag broke?
What is this "water bag" anyway?
Imagine living in a dark, cozy room for nine months, cushioned by a fluid-filled sac? This is your baby, and that sac is your water bag. It's sometime known as the "membranes" because it's made up of two membranes: the amnion and chorion.
The "water" is actually amniotic fluid -- a clear, straw-coloured liquid in which your baby lives. It helps protect and cushion your baby from injuries, and also keeps his temperature constant. Additionally, amniotic fluid helps your baby's lungs, digestive and musculoskeletal systems develop.
Amniotic fluid is mostly made up of water. Your baby swallows tiny amounts of it and passes out small amounts of it too, as urine. Over the duration of your pregnancy, the amount of amniotic fluid will gradually increase until the 38th week, when it decreases slightly.
What happens when your water breaks?
Just before labour, your water bag will break, heralding that your baby will soon be born. Sometimes it breaks during early labour.
Other times, your waters might break but there will be a delay in labour. The longer it takes for labour to commence after your membranes rupture, the greater chance there is for baby or you to develop an infection. If this happens, then the doctor might induce labour artificially.
When your water breaks, you might experience a gush of pale yellow of clear fluid (like in the movies). But it also might be indicated by a feeling of wetness in your perineum or vagina, or the leaking of tiny amounts of fluid from your vagina.
As you can see, it can be hard to tell if it's actually amniotic fluid that's leaking, or a pesky late-pregnancy bladder issue. Which brings us to the question: How to tell if your water bag broke?
After your water bag breaks, usually labour commences.
How to tell if your water bag broke? Things to keep in mind
The first thing you should do if you think your water broke, is to inform your doctor. Additionally, the following information will help with how to tell if your water bag broke.
1. Remember COAT
If you think your water broke, there are a few things to take note of, which you can easily remember by keeping the following mnemonic in mind: COAT.
- Colour of the fluid: it should be clear. Greenish-brown will indicate the baby has had a bowel movement in your uterus.
- Odour: a mild smell, or no odour at all is normal. But if there is a strong smell, it may indicate an infection.
- Amount: note whether you experienced a gush or a trickle.
- Time: after your water bag breaks, there is an increased risk of infection if labour does not start within a certain amount of time.
Try to remember the details as indicated by the mnemonic and tell these to your obstetrician. This will help her or him decide what to do next.
2. Change your underwear
As your pregnancy proceeds and if you are working out of home or when stepping out, you should carry a change of underwear and a sanitary napkin in your bag at all times. This is especially important if your water bag breaks when you are out of home.
If this happens, then you should change your underwear as soon as possible and wear the dry pad. Then, you should head back home as soon as you can.
3. Dry or wet?
A good way to tell if your water bag has broken, or whether it's just urine or even increased vaginal discharge, is to lie down with your clean and dry pad on, for about 15 minutes.
If your water bag has indeed broken, then, the amniotic fluid will pool inside your vagina, and gush out again when you stand up.
If you are still uncertain that your water bag broke, you should contact your doctor without delay. Once you are in hospital, doctors will know how to tell if your water bag broke by running a few simple tests.
When you should head to the hospital immediately
There are some instances when you should head to the hospital immediately after your water bag breaks.
- You had tested positive for Group B Strep earlier. You should get to the hospital immediately after your water bag breaks so your doctor can administer antibiotics to you.
- Your water bag ruptures before 37 weeks of pregnancy. This is known as preterm rupture of membranes (preterm PROM). Potential complications include infection, placental abruption (the placenta detaches before delivery), complications to the baby and umbilical cord issues.
Also read: The stages of labour
References: Mayo Clinic, Very Well Family, Northeast Doulas