Amniotic fluid is a fluid that cushions your baby during your pregnancy. An amniotic fluid leaking may signal that your baby is on the way. But, in some cases, it may also mean something more.
When you are pregnant, everything seems like it’s leaking. Your bladder, breasts, and vaginal canal may have discharge. While most obstetric leakages seem normal and do not signal trouble, amniotic fluid leaking can be a subject of worry. In addition, others may mistake a leak into water breaking as a sign of polyhydramnios.
Leaks might make you wonder if something is not normal, or if it means the baby is on the way. What really occurs when you leak amniotic fluid and if this leak is safe, are some of the things that we want to be aware of.
The amniotic fluid is the warm, fluid cushion that protects and supports your baby inside your womb. This is a vital fluid that is composed of the following:
- immune system cells
- your baby’s urine
At its full-blown level, the amniotic fluid in your belly is around 1 quart. In the late third trimester, your fluid levels depreciate as your body prepares for labour.
Image from Shutterstock
Amniotic Fluid Leaking
The colourless, amniotic liquid is a clear and odourless, thin liquid. Generally, it is somehow similar to water, but there can be exceptions. Sometimes, amniotic fluid can be greenish or brownish when meconium (stool passed by the baby) is there.
It may also appear white-flecked as a result of mucus. And if there is blood, it will appear reddish.
If too much liquid starts to leak out, this is an occurrence of oligohydramnios. The fluid may also gush out due to the rupturing of the amniotic sac.
Signs and Symptoms of Leaking Amniotic Fluid
Imagine that your amniotic sac is like a water balloon. It is possible to break the water balloon, and it will cause a strong gush of fluid (your water breaking). In addition, it is also possible that a small hole may develop in the sac. As a result, there would be a slow leak of amniotic fluid.
While you are pregnant, it seems like so many parts of you are leaking. Your bladder becomes full quickly, and you would leak urine. Your vaginal tissues also can produce extra fluid to help your baby pass through easily. So, it can be difficult to distinguish if fluid is urine, amniotic fluid, or vaginal fluid.
Leaking amniotic fluid would feel like a gush of warm liquid or a slow trickle from the vagina. If the liquid is amniotic fluid, it is unlikely to refrain from leaking.
Signs of leaking amniotic liquid vs. other liquid and discharge
Amniotic fluid may present the following qualities:
- clear, white-flecked, and/or with a mixture of mucus or blood
- no odour
- often saturates your underwear
Usually, urine will always have an odour. Vaginal fluid is usually white or yellow in colour.
Another approach to distinguish if it is the amniotic fluid that is leaking is to empty first your bladder. Put a sanitary napkin or panty liner in your underwear and observe the fluid that leaks on the pad after 30 minutes to 1 hour. If the fluid is yellow in colour, it is most likely urine. If it is not, then it must be amniotic fluid.
An additional option is to put on a pad or panty liner and concentrate on holding your pelvic floor muscles tightly. To do this, you should do it like you’re trying to stop urinating. Then, if you don’t see any fluid on the pad, that is probably urine.
However, to safely diagnose if it is an amniotic fluid leak is to go to a doctor for a tried and true verification. They may give you an exam and may run a series of tests, which might include a pooling test, pH test, and dye test.
Your doctor may also take a fluid sample and look at it under a microscope, as amniotic fluid will have a fern leaf pattern once dry.
Causes of Leaking Amniotic Fluid
The amniotic sac ruptures during a mother’s labour. People often call this water breaking. According to the American Pregnancy Association, just 1 to 10 women might experience a “dramatic gush” of amniotic fluid. For most mothers, it is more likely a feeling of a constant trickle.
In some cases, the amniotic sac breaks or leaks before the labour starts. If the amniotic sac breaks before the 37th week of pregnancy, doctors define it as premature rupture of membranes (PROM).
Mothers who got pregnant 6 months after their last childbirth, or have multiple pregnancies might have a higher risk of PROM and leaking amniotic fluid.
Other factors that can result in PROM and amniotic fluid leak are the following:
- contractions that may pressure on the amniotic sac, causing it to tear
- the amniocentesis needle making a hole that might take too long to heal
- cerclage, a procedure where doctors stitch the cervix closed until the baby is ready for delivery
- a urinary tract infection (UTI) or sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- medical problems like lung disease and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
- exposure to any harmful substance, including tobacco, illegal drugs, and alcoholic substance
- too much or too little amniotic fluid
- the placenta separating from your uterus
Treatment will depend on the cause of your leak and your age during pregnancy, health, and fetal development.
Your doctor may suggest bed rest, meaning you must lessen your activities and rest for almost a whole day. They may also advise abstaining from sexual activities.
If you have an infection, your health care provider may prescribe antibiotics that are safe to take during your pregnancy.
If your baby is ready to be born, your doctor and health care unit might choose to induce labour using a medicine called oxytocin. Alternatively, medicines like tocolytics can help stop premature or preterm labour if it is too early for a due date.
Additionally, if you have oligohydramnios, your doctor may recommend amnioinfusion. With amnioinfusion, your doctor will inject a saline solution into your uterus through your cervix. This treatment can help prevent other health complications, like the umbilical cord being squeezed or cord prolapse.
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Leaking Amniotic Fluid – When to Go to the Hospital
Go to the hospital or call your doctor as soon as possible if your fluid presents as green-tinged or brownish-yellow. This might indicate that your baby has had a bowel movement in the womb, which may cause breathing problems when they are born.
You might also need a doctor or to go to the hospital if you think your membranes have ruptured, or your “water breaks”. Take note and notice the colour of the fluid that you need to tell your doctor.
Test at home
Knowing the difference between amniotic fluid vs. discharge and other fluids, you may also be able to test your amniotic fluid leak.
Here are the steps of an amniotic fluid test that you can do at home:
- Empty your bladder and place a panty liner or sanitary pad.
- Keep wearing the pad for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Then, examine the fluid that has leaked into it.
- If it looks yellow, it is most likely urine. If it looks clear, it is probably amniotic fluid. However, this can be tricky, so if your napkin is soaked, call your health care provider. They can distinguish whether you are leaking amniotic fluid or other fluids or discharge.
Another way to test is by squeezing your pelvic floor’s muscular part tight. If you stop leaking, it is possibly urine that is leaking. If you still leak, it is no other than leaking amniotic fluid.
Amniotic fluid leaking can be normal, but don’t hesitate to always ask your doctor for confirmation. Sometimes, it can be harmless, but also, it can be dangerous to you and your baby.
Image source: iStock
This article was written by Nathanielle Torre and republished with permission from theAsianparent Philippines.
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