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While the unborn baby is gestating inside the uterus, he is cushioned and sheltered inside a fluid – filled membranous bag called the amniotic sac.
When the amniotic sac ruptures, it is called the water breaking. It is characterized as the bursting of amniotic fluid that flood through the cervix, flows out the vaginal opening and results to non – stop leaking.
Water breaking usually occurs around the 40th week of pregnancy [from the onset or during the course of labor and delivery]. It triggers the chemical chain reaction to start labor contractions, resulting to the crowning of the baby’s head.
Water breakage does not always mean that labor is about to begin. As a matter of fact, about 80% of laboring mothers experience the onset of contractions before the water breakage; then the remaining 20% experiences water breaking first before the onset of labor with a level of pain [after a few hours].
Amniotic fluid leakage versus urine incontinence
It is not always easy to tell if the water has already broken or if it is just urine incontinence that the mother – to – be is just experiencing.
Though both the amniotic fluid and urine exit in the body from the same opening, below are its distinctive features:
- Amniotic fluid is colorless [though some are streaked with small smears of blood] while urine ranges from whitish – yellow to dark yellow
- Amniotic fluid is odorless [though some women claim it smells sweet, like that of chlorine or semen] while urine has different kinds of odor that can range from mild to pungent (smells like that of ammonia water)
What to expect from water breakage
Primarily, mothers – to – be must expect that labor and delivery will begin in no time or as soon as possible once the water breaks. Water breakage serves as an important indicator of labor and it can occur in the following ways cited below:
Early water breakage
Early water breakage refers to the case of pre – term pre – mature rupture of the membranes (pre – term prom or simply PPROM). It is characterized as the water breaking at or around the time of the estimated due date [specifically before the 37th week of pregnancy].
In PPROM, labor will not begin anytime soon and delivery is expected within a week after the water breakage.
In line with this, enlisted below are the risk factors and potential complications caused by early water breakage:
- A history record of pre – term pre – mature rupture of the membranes prior to pregnancy
- Infection of the female genital tract
- Vaginal bleeding while gestating
- Engaging in vices [such as smoking cigarettes, e – cigarettes, and tobaccos; drinking alcoholic beverages; taking illegal drugs] during pregnancy
- A low body mass index (BMI)
- Maternal and/or fetal infection
- Placental abruption (abruptio placentae in medical terms) – is the peeling of the placenta from the inner wall of the uterus right before delivery
- Umbilical cord complications
- Increased risk of pre – mature birth
During the course of water breakage
Basically when the water breaks, a mother – to – be will experience [either an intermittent or continuous small amounts of water drips] wetting from the vaginal opening.
In line with this, below are the detailed descriptions of what water breaking exactly feels:
Popping of water
- The popping of water feels like that of a cracking knuckle followed by a massive amount of water flow
- A mother – to – be can literally hear a popping sound during the course of water breakage
The water flow
- Massive amount of water flow all over the floor
- About a 5 gallon of water flow came from the inside of the body, which results to a weird feeling
- Water flow like that of a flood and a little more would leak
- Non – stop and uncontrollable water flow
- The feeling of having a water hose in full blast or a water balloon has popped between the legs
The water drip
- A warm water dripping down the legs
- A slow water drip like that of a sweat or normal vaginal discharge
- A water breakage begins as a slow leakage and it leaks more as it becomes a stream of water drip
In between the drip and flow
- Some stated that in between part of the water drip and the flow feels like the onset of a menstrual period
- Some felt a heavy flow of menstrual period dripping down the legs
- Some stated it does not feel like a drip nor a flow either
The aftermath of water breakage
After the non – stop and uncontrollable flow of warm water, a mother – to – be is expected to feel the aftermath of water breakage in the following forms:
Relieved water breakage
- Some felt relieved during the onset of the 2nd stage of labor (pushing phase)
- On the other hand, some experience water breakage during the course of labor (while pushing)
- While some experience water breakage 15 minutes after childbirth, with the cervix fully dilated
- Some experience a massive pop followed by a relieved feeling after pressure
- Some experience a slight relief and more pain
- Some experience a slight relief and more intensity of the baby’s head crowning out
- Some experienced the water breaking during the course of labor. This would begin as a leakage like that of sweating [down there] and becomes a gush as the pressure from the inside decreases [which results to a relieving feeling]
- Some experience water breakage when the mother – to – be’s cervix is about 9 centimeters dilated. This situation is characterized by pain and a temporary relief
Rude water breakage
- Some water breaks while sleeping which results to a wet underwear once they wake up
- While some are awaken by the massive flow of water breakage
- On the other hand, some are awaken by the initial flow of water breaking during their sleep
- While some wake in a giant puddle of amniotic fluid leakage
Unstoppable water breakage
- Unstoppable water breakage which is similar to urine incontinence
- Non – stop water leakage and more of it comes out as the mother – to – be moves
Feel – nothing water breakage
- Some had water breakage once the epidural is placed
- Some did not feel the occurrence of water breakage, only her wet legs serve as an indicator
- Some do not feel their water breaking since it occurs as the baby’s head is crowning
- Some experience it in the midst of labor contractions
The onset of labor
Generally, right after the water breakage, the onset of labor is surely expected [if it has not already begun just yet]. However in some cases, there is some delay.
For novice mothers, there is no need to panic once water breaking occurs. She must take note to just relax and go to the nearest restroom possible to avoid wetting the underwear or flooding the floor.
Apart from that, below are the things that a mother – to – be must do and not do:
Things to do when the water breaks
- Taking a shower after the water has broken depends on the health care practitioner’s consultation. He may recommend a newborn mother to go straight the delivery facility but generally, having a refreshing bath after the water breakage is okay
What to avoid once the water has broke
- Do not do any physical and/or direct contact that could introduce germs and bacteria in the vagina
- Abstain from sexual intercourse if amniotic fluid is still leaking
Pre – term PROM
If a mother – to – be experiences pre – term PROM, the medical practitioner will likely recommend inducing labor (simply known as labor induction). Labor induction is the stimulation of uterine contractions to trigger the onset of labor.
Prolonged and arrested labor
The longer [or worst, arrested] the labor takes to begin after the water breaks, the higher the risk that the unborn baby will develop various infections.
Water did not break on its own
If the water did not break on its own, the medical practitioner will perform the following procedures:
- Amniotic sac should be cut open during the course of active labor
Amniotomy is required
Amniotomy (also referred to as the artificial rupture of membranes, AROM) is a procedure which involves making a small opening in the amniotic sac by using a thin plastic hook to manually start the water breakage [which might cause a level of discomfort].
This procedure is performed due to the following situations:
- When the cervix is at least partially or completely dilated
- The unborn baby’s head is burrowed deep into the pelvis
If a mother – to – be did not go into labor on her own, the medical practitioner will likely include amniotomy in the planned induction [to trigger the onset of labor].
Baby has not arrived within the day
A medical practitioner will give intravenous antibiotics if the baby has not arrived within the day after the water breakage.