Pregnancy and you blog

Rupture of membranes: Has your water broken?

By Mary M. Murry, R.N., C.N.M. October 12, 2010

During pregnancy, your baby is surrounded and cushioned by a fluid-filled membrane called the amniotic sac. At some point before your baby is born, the sac will rupture. This is known as your water breaking or rupture of the membranes.

When your water breaks, you may expect large amounts of fluid to run down your legs and fill up your shoes. It isn't always so easy to tell that your water has broken, though. At the end of pregnancy, all the glands you never knew you had in your vagina produce fluid to lubricate the way for the baby. To cloud the issue a little more, sometimes the amniotic sac can spring a leak without actually breaking. Think of a water balloon with a pin-sized hole. It's also common to leak small amounts of urine during pregnancy, even when your bladder doesn't feel full or you've just urinated.

So how do you know if you're leaking urine, vaginal fluid or amniotic fluid? Here are some clues:

  • If you're leaking urine, the fluid will likely have a distinctive odor.
  • If you're leaking vaginal fluid, the discharge will probably be clear or white to yellowish. It can be rather sloppy, requiring multiple changes of underwear or panty liners in a single day.
  • If you're leaking amniotic fluid or your water has broken, the fluid is likely to saturate your underwear or panty liner over and over again. The fluid may be clear or contain white flecks, perhaps tinged with blood or mucus. It isn't likely to smell, however.

If you're unsure what you're leaking, contact your health care provider. You may need an exam to find out for sure. This is especially important if you suspect that your water has broken or the fluid is green — which usually means that the baby has had a bowel movement and needs special attention at delivery.

Whether your water breaks in public, at home or in the hospital — either in a gush or a slow trickle — take comfort in the fact that you'll soon be holding your baby in your arms.

Oct. 12, 2010