You may be wondering, what is water breaking? 

When you’re pregnant and your water breaks, it means that the fluid-filled sac around your baby has ruptured. This sac of amniotic fluid holds your little one snug and safe in your belly. Also called a bag of waters, it makes room for your baby to grow, keeps them in a steady temperature, and cushions the umbilical cord so it won’t get squeezed.

When your body gets ready to deliver the baby, your water breaks and drains through your vagina. This can happen before or during your labor. That’s when you start feeling contractions and your cervix thins and widens so your baby can pass through.

What happens if your water breaks too early?

If your water breaks before the 37th week of pregnancy, it’s known as preterm prelabor rupture of membranes (preterm PROM). Risk factors for water breaking too early include:

  • A history of preterm prelabor rupture of membranes in a prior pregnancy
  • Inflammation of the fetal membranes (intra-amniotic infection)
  • Vaginal bleeding during the second and third trimesters
  • Smoking or using illicit drugs during pregnancy
  • Being underweight with poor nutrition
  • Short cervical length

Potential complications include maternal or fetal infection, placental abruption — when the placenta peels away from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery — and umbilical cord problems. The baby is also at risk of complications due to premature birth. (source)

Not Like The Movies!

Many of you have probably seen in movies or on tv shows when a pregnant woman nearing the end of her pregnancy and is at the store or some other public setting and all of the sudden she has this HUGE gush of water come out and she is instantly feeling the urge to push. She is rushed to a hospital, screaming a yelling the entire time.

Well… I hate to break it to you but this is NOT the way things normally happen!

Only about 10-15% of women start labor with their water breaking. Yes, you read that right!

If your water happens to break before you are at the location where you will be giving birth you should make notes and be aware of a few things.



Your provider will want to know these things.

Color– The color of your water should be clear. Yellow or greenish-brown color would indicate that your baby has had a bowel movement in utero, known as meconium.

Odor– There is typically little to no smell of normal amniotic fluid. If you do smell a strong odor it may mean indicate that there is an infection.

Amount– You will want to make sure you take note of whether it was a trickle or a gush of fluid. If you are unsure if your water actually broke, go to the bathroom and urinate. Then lay down on your side for 10-15 minutes. If your water has broken you will more than likely have a pool of fluid in your vagina that will come out when you stand up.

Time– You are at an increased risk of getting an infection once your water breaks, so knowing the time your water breaks is very important. Your provider may want to induce labor if contractions don’t start on their own within a certain time period.

Some Things To Keep In Mind

  • Some providers may want to break your water to “help get labor started” or “to move things along”. Remember you ALWAYS have the option to decline this procedure from being done.
  • Most of the time your water eventually breaks on its own at some point during your labor. When it does happen let your nurse or provider know so that she can do the COAT assessment.
  • If your water break and you have tested positive for Group B Strep, your provider will ask that you go to the hospital right away. You will need to have antibiotics administered as soon as possible.
  • If your water breaks and you have not tested positive for Group B Strep, stay as active as possible. Being active can help contractions start. Some way you can do this is by using an exercise ball to move your hips in figure eight. Going for walk is a great way to get contractions going.
  • You should NOT have sex after your water breaks, this can introduce harmful bacteria into your uterus.
  • Only a very small amount (fewer than 1 in 80,000 births) of babies are “born in the caul”. This is when the amniotic sac doesn’t rupture and the baby is still in the amniotic sac when they are born.

Note From Your Doula

If your water breaks and you are not with your doula, make sure you call her first then your hospital or midwife. This way your doula can gather their stuff and head to your birth locations.

To learn more about the stages of labor and what to expect, take a childbirth class.