Did Your Water Break? 9 Things You Need To Know

Image via J&J Brusie Photography
Image via J&J Brusie Photography

One of the most common phone calls we get at the labor and delivery unit where I work goes a little something like this:

Riiing,riing. 

“Birth center, this is Chaunie speaking, how can I help you?”

“Um, yes, hi. I'm so-and-so, and my due date is a few days away, but I think my water just broke, but I'm not sure … should I come in?”

As your big day approaches, it can be hard to know when it's “time.” And even more confusing to a lot of women whose water doesn't gush dramatically like they show in the  movies is trying to figure out whether or not their water has actually broken. To help you get prepared for what to expect, here are a few facts about your water breaking, along with some questions to ask yourself. 

Image via subewl/Flickr
Image via subewl/Flickr

1. You can't be assessed over the phone. As I said, labor and delivery units get a lot of phone calls from anxious mommas-to-be, wondering if they should come because they're unsure if their water has really broken. As much as we would love to be able to magically tell if your water has broken without seeing you, it's just not safe for us to try to assess that over the phone because, really, it's impossible. If you're really questioning if your water has broken, the safest bet is just to head into the hospital to be evaluated or call up your OB — they may be better able to help guide you on what to do. The floor nurses simply can't make that call over the phone. 

Image via J & J Brusie Photography
Image via J & J Brusie Photography

2. Try standing up. One trick to try to tell if your water has really broken is to do the “stand up” test. If you stand up and notice that the fluid seems to leak more once you're up, it's probably a good indicator that your water has broken, as the extra pressure from standing up can force the amniotic fluid out more than when you're just sitting.

Image via Jason Lander/Flickr
Image via Jason Lander/Flickr

3. Is it mucus? I would guess that in almost half of the cases what women think is their water breaking is just mucus. As delivery gets closer during the last few weeks of pregnancy the cervix softens and women may lose their mucus plug in smaller amounts. Many times the mucus can increase quite a bit in the last couple weeks, even requiring a light sanitary pad. If your fluid is thicker or whiter (it may also have a twinge of blood here and there) in color, it might just be mucus. 

Image via djg0333/Flickr
Image via djg0333/Flickr

4. Amniotic fluid is clear. Something that may help you be able to discern whether or not your water has broken is being aware of what the amniotic fluid (the technical term for your waters!) actually looks like. If your water has broken, it will be odorless and be clear in color.

Image via Nina Matthews Photography/Flickr
Image via Nina Matthews Photography/Flickr

5. Your water can break in a gush, or leak slowly. I think a lot of women expect the giant gush of fluid that happens in the movies, and while that does happen sometimes, a lot of times a woman's water breaks a little more subtly. Imagine a big balloon full of water — you can prick it a few times with a pin and get a water leak, but it doesn't always necessarily burst. 

Image via Paul_012/Flickr
Image via Paul_012/Flickr

6. Your nurse can tell if your water has broken. If you head to the hospital, convinced that your water has broken and you will shortly be holding your baby in your arms, only to be sent home in disappointment, rest assured that your nurse really can tell if your water has broken. There are several different ways that they can test to see if your water has broken. The most common way of finding out is by looking at your amniotic fluid on a slide under a microscope, where it will take on a distinctive “ferning” pattern, like rows of tiny fern leaves. If all of that seems to check out, your water did  break, and it really is amniotic fluid. 

Image via bradleygee/Flickr
Image via bradleygee/Flickr

7. Labor usually kicks in after your water breaks. Thankfully – so you're not sitting around all day wondering “was that really my water breaking?” – labor tends to kick in pretty quickly (and intensely) after your water breaks. You might not have much time to question if it was “real” or not when the contractions start …

Image via Flora MC/Flickr
Image via Flora MC/Flickr

8. It is possible for a water leak to seal back up. It's rare, but it does happen. If you think of that balloon analogy again, imagine just a tiny pin-prick in the water balloon, with a tiny water leak. Incredibly, in some cases, that tiny leak can seal itself back up. Even if you are sure your water broke, it is possible that the leak may seal itself back up before you get to the hospital to get checked out. Talk about frustrating! 

Image via @boetter/Flickr
Image via @boetter/Flickr

9. Some women's waters never break. If you're sitting around, waiting for labor to start with the dramatic gush of your water breaking, you may be disappointed. Some women's water never breaks until they are well progressed into labor, or even moments before the baby is actually delivered. I am actually one of those women — my water has never actually broken on its own!

Disclaimer: This advice should not replace an actual phone call or visit to your medical care provider if you do in fact suspect that your water has broken. It is simply to ensure you have additional information when you go into the discussion with your nurses and doctors. 

 

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Did Your Water Break? 9 Things You Need To Know

Chaunie Brusie is a coffee mug addict, a labor and delivery nurse turned freelance writer, and a young(ish) mom of four. She is the author of "Tiny Blue Lines: Preparing For Your Baby, Moving Forward In Faith, & Reclaiming Your Life In An Unplanned Pregnancy" and "The Moments That Made You A Mother". She also runs Passion Meets Practicality, a community of tips + inspiration for work-at-home mothers. ... More

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17 comments

  1. Profile photo of laura laura says:

    Be aware tho, that your amniotic fluid may be barely pink. Mine was and my water actually broke a little 15 hours before it really broke!

  2. Profile photo of Jessica Jessica says:

    My water has never broke on it’s own with my 2 pregnancies. I’ve always pictured it like the movie. By the time my doctor broke my water my baby girls were here in no time.

  3. Profile photo of Tiffany Tiffany says:

    Article seemed a bit repetitive but its good to see a post on this question. Two of my friends warned me about the leaking waters but I was one of the many whose water never broke. I knew I was in labor by the increased frequency I had to pee and pain in my back. Both my pregnancies were breached so I ended up with a C section. I knew with my second one is be getting another c so I just timed how far apart the sharp pain (I had two strengths of contractions, the main one being a dull vibration that makes you feel like you really got to pee immediately) was. At 25 minutes apart we made the journey to our hospital (28 minutes away). I was admitted immediately once checked by the RN in mother baby.

    My son was not as easy. I was in labor off and on for two weeks. Every time we went to the hospital they’d send us back home. The surgeon needed was on vacation.

  4. This is so interesting, the last time they broke my water in the hospital, we see how this one will go cos I want yo experience how it feels or smell like.

  5. Profile photo of Rebekkah Rebekkah says:

    My first pregnancy and my boyfriend works odd hours so this is helpful considering I can’t call him with any false alarms I hope this information helps when/if my water breaks and I go into labor I’m worried I won’t know and will call with false alarm or pee myself and think my water broke. First pregnancy not many people I know have kids except older women whose kids are my age

  6. Profile photo of cherieanna cherieanna says:

    I read somewhere a while back that less than 25% of women have their water break on its own before going to the hospital to give birth. I had my water break with my second child (out of three) and my husband and hospital over the phone seemed to not believe me. I was told to try laying down; as soon as I did it went from a trickle to a gush! It was an unforgettable moment to see my husband freak out and he definitely believed me after that. He called the hospital right back and we went in and had a baby :0)

  7. Profile photo of Amber Amber says:

    My water never broke on it’s own. With my second child my bag of water was actually hanging out of my vagina when the doctor came to check me and he had to break it less than 2 pushes later m daughter was here. I hope it breaks this time I would love to experience that once before I am done.

  8. Profile photo of Maria Maria says:

    Definitely wish I knew waters could leak slowly instead of gush last year! My waters broke with a leak at 27 weeks, the only reason I assumed it was my waters was that I had just come out of hospital after spending a week there after my membranes ruptured. I was advised baby would be early, but they hoped not too early. I brushed it off intially, but when the leaking didn’t stop, I went in to hospital…sure enough, they had broke. I figured baby would quickly follow, but they kept me 24 hours and sent me back home on bedrest. My waters continued to leak for 10 days, and I had to go back every other day to be checked. At 29 weeks, my tiny boy came!

  9. Profile photo of Maria Maria says:

    Definitely wish waters could leak slowly instead of gush! My waters broke with a leak at 27 weeks, the only reason I assumed it was my waters was that I had just come out of hospital after spending a week there after my membranes ruptured. I was advised baby would be early, but they hoped not too early. I brushed it off intially, but when the leaking didn’t stop, I went in to hospital…sure enough, they had broke. I figured baby would quickly follow, but they kept me 24 hours and sent me back home on bedrest. My waters continued to leak for 10 days, and I had to go back every other day to be checked. At 29 weeks, my tiny boy came!

  10. Profile photo of Carol Carol says:

    My water broke with my first son, but it was like a slow leak, around 8 @ night at 37 weeks. I went to the hospital and was admitted and had to be induced at 7 the next morning because my contractions weren’t progressing. A few hours later I had my sweet boy!

  11. Profile photo of Sarah Sarah says:

    I have a problem with #4. Your amniotic fluid may be clear, but if the baby has pooped while in the womb, it won’t be clear! When my water broke, it was a dark greenish color and was not odorless. I was told to remember TACO if you think your water breaks, Time it broke, Amount of liquid, Color, and Odor.

  12. Profile photo of Teokie0824 Teokie0824 says:

    Everything about this article was right and pretty much on point; when my water broke it was 2:00 am and I thought I was wetting the bed so I go up and ran to the bathroom and water was just gushing I had to go to the ED with a towel between my legs. No one ever told me when your water breaks it doesn’t stop until you deliver your baby. Nobody ever tells you that part! Also if your water break it doesn’t mean you are about to have your baby bc I had to get induced .And didn’t have my son until 428 pm later that afternoon. Don’t be alarmed if you do have to get induced everyone’s body is different not everyone has the pleasure of their baby coming when they want, some babies are just stubborn 🙂

  13. Profile photo of KT. S KT. S says:

    My first one my water broke in the hospital and the latest addition it broke getting out of the car… Got home from having dinner at my moms, newest joke is moms food is soo good it’ll make you go into labor 😉

  14. Profile photo of Carrie Carrie says:

    With my first 3 babies, I was at the hospital already in labor when my water broke. With my 4th one however, I was sitting at home on the couch timing my contraction when I heard a strange “pop” sound. At the same time it felt like the baby kicked or hit me down at the bottom of the cervix. Then all of the sudden, whoosh!! My couch was being flooded; so I jumped up and ran/waddled to the dining room floor where the mess could be easily cleaned up. My contractions became very intense and painful very quickly after this. We left immediately for the hospital arriving at around 2:20am. My daughter was born at 4:40am.

  15. My first pregnancy, my water broke around 4:20am 3 weeks early. I woke up thinking, “Oh no! I’m wetting the bed!” I used a tip from a nurse who taught the birthing class: sit on the toilet for a minute until the flow stops, put on a large pad. If you soak through that after standing again for a little bit, sit down again and exchange it for a new one. If you soak through a second large pad, chances are it your amniotic sack and not your bladder. Most of the tips in this article are pretty accurate, though one that varies from woman to woman is the smell of the fluid. MOST of the time, it’s scentless. Some woman say theirs actually smells sweet, mine smelled like bleach water. The biggest thing is, if you think your water is broken, go to the hospital. Once the amniotic fluid starts draining it raises the risk of complications or infections for you and the baby unless it is monitored.

  16. Profile photo of gfeld gfeld says:

    So far my water never broke on it’s own and the ob had to break prior to me pushing. I did have many times though, when I wondered whether my water broke and I am grateful for this article with numerous tips which will hopefully help me determine in the future whether it has happened.

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