Will it happen at the shops?
Will it be a huge gush of water?
Does it hurt?
These are the questions many first time pregnant mamas ask themselves when thinking about the possibility of their waters breaking.
It’s pretty normal to feel a bit worried about your waters breaking, particularly if you have no idea what to expect and thanks to today’s media, which makes waters breaking seem like The Worst Thing Ever.
Myths About Your Waters Breaking
Here are 9 myths about your waters breaking.
#1: You Have No Warning
Ok we’ve all seen it happen in the movies – pregnant woman is minding her own business at work or shopping and suddenly she’s taken by complete surprise when her waters break.
While you don’t know exactly when your waters may break, it commonly happens during active labour – when you’ve already been having regular contractions for a while. If your waters break before labour has begun, you will usually have some warning signs, like mild cramping that feels a bit like period pain, or even lower backache.
While the medical world would have us believe different, there aren’t any rules to labour and birth. Yes there is a fairly typical chain of events that happen to most women but within that wide range of normal are many variations. You’re unique and might not experience the start of labour like your mother, sister or best friend. Roll with it!
Find out the differences between labour in the movies and real life here.
#2: You Will Feel Your Waters Break
You might feel a pop, you might not. You might feel a rush of fluid, a trickle or simply wonder if you have pee’d yourself. You may feel all of the above or none at all!
It can actually be harder than you think to tell if your waters have broken. Vaginal fluid increase toward the end of pregnancy, and the mucus plug can begin to come away as the cervix starts to ripen. This can be mistaken for amniotic fluid.
If the amniotic sac ruptured higher than the baby’s head, only a trickle will be able to make its way out. Which can cause you to regret not doing more pelvic floor exercises! You might even notice the trickle stops which can really make things confusing as nothing might happen for a few days.
Some women do experience the full gush of waters, and are surprised that more fluid can come out with each contraction. Most of the time, if your waters have broken, moving around or being in an upright position will give you a clue as to what’s going on, as you may feel wetness that you can’t control.
#3: Labour Doesn’t Start Immediately
Just because your waters have broken doesn’t mean labour is going to start immediately. Contractions might start in a few hours, they may take their merry time and keep you waiting for 12 or more hours. About 1 in 10 women experience their waters breaking several hours before labour begins.
How long you have to wait depends on a few factors, such as your baby’s position and what your care provider policy is on waters breaking before labour starts.
Many women want things to get a move on and will try to encourage contractions to begin. Try not to wear yourself out because you will need that energy for later and definitely don’t insert anything in your vagina to limit infection risk.
#4: You Don’t Need To Rush To the Hospital
So your waters have broken – now what? If you were in the movies, you might jump in the nearest taxi or phone your partner to get home NOW and race you into hospital.
But this isn’t the movies and it’s probably 2am (little known fact: waters most often break at night when you are in bed sleeping). You might get up and check what’s going on, feel excited – even wake your partner to say ‘the baby’s coming’ just to have someone to share the news with.
Your care provider may have recommended you contact them when your waters have broken. This is to make sure all is well and to reassure you of what do if things change. Get some rest or snuggle up on the couch and watch a movie. Trying to get things moving can seem like a good idea but that gets tiring pretty quickly.
#5: You Might Get An Infection
The amniotic sac serves a purpose other than holding onto the amniotic fluid. It acts as a barrier to prevent infections which can cause severe complications.
If water is trickling out there is little chance of bacteria swimming against the tide as it were, unless something is inserted into the vagina and close to the cervix. This would allow bacteria to be pushed upwards and potentially be introduced through the cervix.
Policy differs as to how long you can wait after your waters break and contractions begin – usually between 48 and 72 hours. After this time, your care provider may recommend induction of labour as the risk of you acquiring an infection is believed to be increased.
#6: You Might Have A Dry Birth
A dry birth is a bit of an urban myth. The theory goes if a woman’s waters break days or weeks before labour begins, all the fluid is gone and she has a dry birth.
There are several reasons why this just can’t happen. The baby’s head acts like a cork in a bottle, so if the amniotic sac breaks not all the water can escape at once. Usually when a large gush does occur it is because the baby’s head isn’t fully engaged and there is a decent amount of fluid in front of the head. Once the sac ruptures, the baby’s head will descend over the cervix and act as a plug for the water remaining.
Amniotic fluid can also replenish itself. During late pregnancy, the source of most of the fluid is from the baby and the rest from the mother. A healthy baby can replenish the fluid even if the amniotic sac has ruptured.
#7: You Can Make Your Waters Break
You’re full term, over it and ready for this baby to be born. A late night Google session gives you the bright idea to drive down a bumpy road, have sex, bounce on your birth ball, eat lots of pineapple…
Science has only just started to figure out what causes labour to start and it definitely isn’t a spicy curry. Your baby’s lungs reach a certain point of maturity, triggering a complex process that tells your body to go into labour. Read more here about what causes labour to start.
Most of the time when women go into labour after using natural induction methods, it is because they were already in prelabour and their bodies were ready to start getting serious. Being patient pays off but it can be a good story to tell if you don’t mind amniotic fluid on your car seat.
Find out 7 things that failed to induce labour for BellyBelly writer Fiona.
#8: Waters Don’t Break Early
Unfortunately this isn’t true. Around 10% of women will experience what is known as premature rupture of membranes (PROM). This is when the amniotic sac ruptures before your baby is ready to be born (earlier than 37 weeks).
Why this happens has been one of science’s greatest mysteries but recent research has discovered labour is associated with an inflammatory response and there is increased concentrations of bacteria in women who have experienced PROM.
If your waters do break earlier than 37 weeks, contact your care provider right away as there are management and treatment options available depending on how many weeks pregnant you are.
Here’s more information about when your water breaks prematurely.
#9: No Interventions Needed After Waters Break
Sometimes contractions don’t get started or aren’t regular and strong enough to dilate the cervix. An infection might be present or there can be a complication like cord prolapse (when the cord is swept out through the cervix before the baby’s head).
Interventions can be medically necessary and save lives of mothers and babies around the world. They can also be used unnecessarily because of an impatience and desire to avoid any deviation from what is considered ‘normal’ labour by the medical profession.
If an intervention is recommended by your care provider, don’t be afraid to ask for more information, including the risks and benefits of having/not having the intervention. Unless things are urgent you will have time to consider your options and make the best decision for you and your baby.