Hollywood has produced a slew of movies about having a baby. Since film loves drama, many of these pregnancy-themed flicks portray the experience of bringing a child into the world in unrealistic ways.
In the movies, labor usually begins like this: the on-screen expectant mom’s water breaks in a dramatic display. She’s rushed to the hospital, and bing-bang-boom, the baby is born within 30 minutes. Pregnancy films are entertaining to watch, but the realities of childbirth are usually quite different.
When your water breaks, it probably won’t mirror what you’ve seen in a big-budget movie. Still, it’s only natural to feel apprehensive about when and where it will happen. But fear not because we have 10 good reasons why you shouldn’t worry about your water breaking in public.
10 It Probably Won’t Happen Without Warning
A baby in the womb is surrounded by a fluid-filled membranous bag called the amniotic sac. This bag is the watery cushion that protects your baby throughout the pregnancy. When your membranes rupture, the sac will drain a warm fluid through the cervix and out of your vagina. A rupture can also trigger labor.
Chances are you’ll feel contractions before your waters break, as it does with 4 out of 5 women. There’s only a 20% chance your water will break without warning.
9 It’s Not That Much Fluid
The movies sometimes simulate a woman’s water breaking by splashing a bucket of fluid on the sidewalk. In reality, amniotic fluid is only about 2 ½ cups of liquid. Although, in some situations, it may seem like more.
Once the bag is ruptured, the fluid will seep until the sac is empty. How much fluid escapes at once will depend on a few factors. For instance:
- If the sac has a small tear, you’ll probably feel a continuous trickle of water.
- If the sac has a large tear, it may feel like a big handful of warm water exiting at once.
- If your baby’s head is in a downward position, the head can prevent the water from rushing out, like a cork in a bottle.
- If you’re lying or sitting, the fluid tends to seep out slowly.
So, it could be a gush, but it will probably be a slow trickle or something in between.
8 The Color and Smell Will Eliminate Doubt
You may think that because you’re so anxious to give birth, you may misinterpret bladder leakage for your water breaking. But, if you know the signs, you won’t be confused. Although these fluids come out of the same general area of the body, you’ll be able to distinguish amniotic fluid from urine by the color and the odor.
If water is leaking, here’s how to evaluate if it’s amniotic fluid:
- What color is the fluid? Amniotic fluid looks clear with a yellowish tinge. You may even see streaks of blood.
- Is there an odor? Generally, it’s odorless but many women liken amniotic fluid to the smell of chlorine or semen.
If the amniotic fluid has a bad smell, has lots of blood, or is a dark or greenish color, go straight to the hospital. This may be evidence your baby is distressed.
7 It Won’t Hurt
If your amniotic sac ruptures, you’ll probably hear an audible “pop.” The sensation is similar to popping an extra thick balloon or cracking a knuckle inside of you. Besides that, you shouldn’t feel any pain until your contractions begin.
6 You’ll Probably Have Time
Once you’ve confirmed that your waters have broken, don’t panic. Yes, your baby is on the way, but you’ll probably have plenty of time. Some women feel strong, regular contractions within 12 hours of the amniotic sac breaking. Other women begin labor within 24-48 hours. In any case, you’re probably not going to deliver your baby right there and then.
Call your obstetrician or your midwife, or head to your birthing facility for a physical examination.
5 A Pad Will Absorb Some Liquid
No woman wants onlookers to witness fluid leaking out her vagina. And not knowing when or where this can happen may add to your worries.
If you’re overly concerned about your waters breaking in public, wear a super absorbent sanitary pad when you leave home. (You may already wear a pad regularly if you’re experiencing bladder leakage.) For extra measure, keep a hand towel and a plastic bag in the glove compartment of your vehicle. These items will help protect your clothes and your car seat in case of a water-breaking emergency.
4 You May Be Able to Wait
Your health care provider will determine if you should remain at the hospital or head back home. If you’re at least 37 weeks pregnant and you and your baby show no signs of stress, you may have decisions to make: one, you can induce labor as soon as possible, or two, you can wait 24 hours or longer for your contractions to begin. (Expectant moms who are between 34-37 weeks may have the same options.)
Allowing nature to take its course has its benefits. By laboring at home, you can take a shower to freshen up before your hospital stay. You can eat, and go to the bathroom. If your contractions begin, you can time them so you’ll know exactly when to head back to the hospital. More importantly, you can relax in the comforts of your own home.
3 You May Be Able to Choose Induction
To avoid complications, induction may be recommended by your health care provider. The longer labor takes to start, the more risk of infection for you and the baby. You’ll need to avoid any contact that might admit bacteria into your vagina. For instance, if fluid is leaking, do not have sex. Generally, doctors allow women with ruptured sacs to take showers, but some physicians do not suggest baths.
Here are some methods that may get your labor started:
Your doctor or midwife may perform a membrane sweep to activate a natural labor. During this procedure, a gloved finger is inserted into the cervix, which is the neck of the womb. Carefully but firmly, the finger sweeps the lining to detach the cervix from the membranes around the baby. The bag of water is also separated from the lining of the uterus. This procedure produces hormones that increase your chance of labor to trigger within 48 hours.
This liquid medication is a synthetic form of oxytocin, which is a natural hormone. Pitocin can help speed up labor by contracting the uterus.
Your maternity team will help you decide which methods are appropriate for you and your baby.
2 You Don’t Need to Feel Embarrassed
If your amniotic sac ruptures in public, it may look like you’ve peed your pants. That’s it. It’s a slightly embarrassing moment, but it’s not preventable, so try not to let it bother you. No one is going to laugh at you. In fact, people will be tripping over themselves to help you. As humiliating as these things may seem, they are necessary in an effort to bring your beautiful child into the world. Be proud and don’t worry.
1 Your Baby Is on the Way
No matter when and where your waters break, be happy that the arrival of your baby is just around the corner. Don’t let this fear stop you from getting out.
The anxiety may be built, and not knowing when your water will break can test your patience. But, take pleasure in your knowledge, and know that you will be prepared when it happens. Enjoy every minute!