Amniotic fluid surrounds your baby during pregnancy in a sac. Towards the end of pregnancy, the amount of collagen decreases in the chorion, which is the outer layer of the bag of water. A fibrous connective tissue, collagen helps to strengthen the chorion by providing extra protection to the amniotic membrane. As the collagen decreases and other factors come into play, the bag of water will break. For the majority of women, this will occur spontaneously during labor. However, in about eight to 10 percent of women, the water will break prior to the onset of labor.
Signs of water breaking during pregnancy
Typically when your water breaks, you will feel a gush of water followed by a steady, uncontrollable leaking. Some women have noted a distinct popping feeling right before their water breaks. Even still, there are others who experience atypical symptoms such as a trickling of fluid or generalized wetness in the perianal area.
Vaginal fluid and discharge increase toward the end of pregnancy, which can sometimes be confused with amniotic fluid. Conversely, leaking amniotic fluid may be mistaken for urine or other vaginal fluid. It’s imperative to have a health care provider evaluate any instances of possible leaks or ruptures in the amniotic sac.
Leaking amniotic fluid
Any time there is a rupture or leak in the amniotic membrane, it opens an entryway for germs and infection. In full-term pregnancies, labor usually begins within 24 hours from the time of the water breaking. If labor does not begin spontaneously, the baby and mother are at greater risk for infection. The longer the water has been broken before the baby is born, the greater the chance of infection.
What if I think my water broke?
If you think your water has broken, make a mental note of the time, the color and appearance of the fluid, and any other characteristics and call your doctor promptly. This is not the time to feel embarrassed. You will not be the first person to call unsure if her water has broken.
What will happen after my water breaks?
When your water breaks, amniotic fluid tends to pool in the vagina. Your doctor will perform a sterile speculum exam to look for any signs of pooling. She will also perform testing on the fluid. Amniotic fluid is alkaline in nature; by placing the fluid on nitrazine paper, your doctor can evaluate the pH of the fluid. Nitrazine paper is extremely accurate in detecting the presence of amniotic fluid. Another method for checking for the presence of amniotic fluid is placing the fluid under a microscope. Amniotic fluid has a fern-like presence under a microscopic lens.
If your doctor determines your water has broken, you will most likely be admitted to the hospital. If full-term, your doctor may induce you if labor does not begin on its own within 24 hours. If preterm, you will most likely be under hospital care until delivery. For early gestations, your doctor will try to prolong delivery to allow time for lung maturity in the infant.