“My water broke!” You would have watched paranoid women dramatically exclaiming this in a movie; or heard stories from friends and relatives about their untimely experience of water breakage. Well, the reality could be a different scenario. It’s an important sign your baby is getting ready to meet you.
What causes your water break?
Water break is the euphemism for ‘the rupture of membrane’ of the amniotic sac which protects and supports the baby. After 37 weeks of pregnancy, it ruptures releasing the amniotic fluid (a thin white fluid) at the time of contractions, indicating you are ready to go into labor.
If the water breaks before the onset of contractions, it is called ‘Premature Rupture of Membrane’ AKA PROM.
Fact check: PROM happens only in 10%* of pregnancies.
How to tell if your water broke?
If you feel a mild popping sensation followed by a trickle or gush of fluid from the vagina, well you might need to use the restroom. Do not panic! First, confirm if it is due to a water break or if you’ve simply peed yourself. (It happens a lot more than you think.)
“The big break felt like I had a balloon and somebody just poked it with a pin. It did not hurt at all; just felt like a bunch of water flowing out and had a very different smell to it”
OBSERVE THE FOLLOWING SIGNS
- Color – clear to pale straw yellow (lighter than urine). Simple tip: You could simply use a sanitary napkin to verify.
· Odour – bleach-like smell
· Amount – It could be a trickle or constant uncontrollable flow of fluid; definitely not as dramatic as the huge gush portrayed on TV.
- Texture – thin and watery
- Time – always good to note when you experience it to convey to your obstetrician
Once you are sure your water broke, relax and take deep breaths. Inform your physician and visit the hospital.
What happens at the hospital?
Your gynecologist does a physical examination and an ultrasound to check the volume of the amniotic fluid.
If you are at your 37th week of pregnancy and have no contractions yet (i.e. if you have PROM) you will be asked to wait 24-48 hours (depending on your doctor and the hospital protocol) for the contractions to set in on their own.
The key is to monitor the baby. Get the required medical attention once your water breaks to prevent infections.
Possible signs of infections are:
- Increased heart rate
- Constant pain (instead of passing contractions)
- Foul-smelling discharge
- Tenderness around uterus
If your infection chances are minimal, and your vitals and that of the baby are stable, you will be cleared to go home and wait for your time.
But if your contractions have already set in, then congratulations! You will soon be holding your baby.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOUR WATER BREAKS BEFORE THE TERM
It is sometimes possible for your water to break before 37 weeks; it is called the ‘Premature Preterm Rupture of Membrane’ (PPROM). In that case, hospitalization could buy your baby some time when both of you will be under the wings of able healthcare professionals. If all goes well, you may deliver once you reach 34 weeks of pregnancy.
While in the hospital you will be administered certain medications like:
- Antibiotics- to prevent infection
- Corticosteroids- to prepare your baby’s lungs for the outside world
- Magnesium sulfate- in the case of PPROM, it reduces the risk of cerebral palsy in your baby
what causes early water break?
Risk factors like,
- History of PROM in a previous pregnancy
- Vaginal bleeding
- Multiple fetuses
- Placental abruption (detachment of the placenta from the uterus)
- Trauma to stomach
If prom happens earlier than 24 weeks (or) any sign of infection is noticed, you will be rushed through this milestone and induced for premature delivery.
PPROM is responsible for one-third* of all premature births globally
“I held onto my hope in miracles, checking that message board every day for more stories of survival; stories of PPROM babies defying the doctor’s expectations. Some stories had an unfortunate end, but mostly there were stories of survival. And, it kept me going through the toughest days and nights till I was able to hold her.”
– Says the mom of a happy and healthy 10 years old PPROM baby.
WHAT IF YOUR CONTRACTIONS HAVE BEGUN AND YOUR WATER HAS NOT BROKEN YET?
Your due date has arrived and you have long waited this day, but your water hasn’t broken yet!
Relax! If you are active in labor and it still doesn’t happen leave that to your doctor. Your gynecologist will medically rupture your amniotic sac causing water breakage by a procedure called ‘amniotomy’. This process will intensify the contractions.
Note: ‘DO NOT’ have sex or insert finger/tampons after a water break!
So many things about your pregnancy and delivery could be overwhelming. It is totally natural to freak out about your water breakage.
It’s the ‘not knowing’ that makes you anxious about ‘when, where, and how it will happen?’ So focus on what you have control over. Take comfort in your knowledge of the process!
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