Water breaking: Understand this sign of labor

Water breaking worries? Prepare yourself for childbirth by getting the facts about this important sign of labor. By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you're pregnant, you might be curious about your water breaking — when it will happen, what it will feel like and what to do next. Recognize the signs of water breaking and know what it means for the timeline of your baby's delivery.

What will happen when my water breaks?

During pregnancy, your baby is surrounded and cushioned by a fluid-filled membranous sac called the amniotic sac. At the beginning of or during labor, your membranes will rupture — also known as your water breaking. If your water breaks at or around the time of your due date and labor doesn't soon begin, it's called premature rupture of membranes (PROM).

When your water breaks you might experience a sensation of wetness in your vagina or on your perineum, an intermittent or continuous trickle of small amounts of watery fluid from your vagina, or — just like in the movies — a more obvious gush.

How can I be sure my water has broken?

It's not always easy to tell if your water has broken. For example, it might be difficult to tell the difference between amniotic fluid and urine — especially if you only experience a feeling of wetness or a trickle of fluid.

If you're uncertain whether your water has broken, consult your health care provider or head to your delivery facility right away. Your doctor or a member of your health care team will give you a physical exam and might use lab tests to determine if you're leaking amniotic fluid. Be sure to note when you think your water might have broken and be prepared to describe any noticeable color or odor. You and your baby will be evaluated to determine the next steps.

Is there anything I need to avoid doing once my water has broken?

Don't do anything that could introduce bacteria into your vagina. Sex isn't a good idea if you think you might be leaking amniotic fluid. It's OK to take a shower after your water breaks — but your health care provider might recommend skipping it and heading straight to your delivery facility.

July 18, 2013 See more In-depth