Moms-to-be, often have an image of a dramatic flood of water in the oddest place as their waters break. In reality, this is highly unlikely as 85-90% of womens' membranes rupture once labor is fully underway, usually once they are already at the hospital or out of public gaze.
In fact, the "rupture of the membranes" is called that way because the amniotic sac has two layers to it. The sac that keeps the unborn baby safe and protected for nine months is the one that usually breaks right before the baby is born. The force of contractions and the hormone release within the mother’s body force the sac to rupture rather, akin to a balloon popping.
Sometimes a doctor will rupture the membranes artificially if labor is progressing slowly because its rupture tends to get things moving.
However, there are many signs that the waters are going to break spontaneously, and all of them are different for each woman. Some women say they felt a great release of pressure and a popping noise and others didn’t notice it was happening and were shocked by a pool of fluid! These are some of the signs women have reported leading up to the big event.
20 The Contractions
Most womens' waters break during labor. They may not be aware they are in established labor, but will usually have had some contractions, and it can be the force of a contraction that forces the baby’s head into such a position that the membranes rupture.
The waters can break during the first or second stage of labor, so it may happen well into labor and can sometimes be used as a tool by the doctors to move things along if labor isn’t progressing too well. Contractions can be felt more strongly once the waters have broken as they provide a little cushioning against the force of the muscles contracting.
19 A Popping Sensation
Every woman’s experience of waters breaking is different, but some women say they felt a kind of popping sensation just before the waters appeared. Some women say they actually hear a popping noise just before their waters broke.
The sensation is likened to a water balloon popping, no pain involved, just a warm gush or trickle of water after the popping was felt. The amniotic sac is made of two layers of membranes that are not unlike a balloon, so it is understandable that this popping of the membranes is felt or heard.
18 The Got-To-Go Feeling
Some women find they have the urge to go to the toilet and as they are sitting there, they notice a flow of fluid that is not urine. Others wake in the night to visit the bathroom and find that the waters break just afterward. The movement of the mother may trigger the baby’s movement, and this may encourage the sac to rupture.
Just be thankful if it happens on the toilet, it could have been in the middle of the bed!
Many women find that they think they are peeing when their waters break and that the sensation of relief is very much like emptying the bladder, reports Tommys.org.
17 The Need To Sit Down
Some women say they felt the need to rest or sit down just before the waters break. It could be nature’s way of preparing the woman for the event about to take place and ensure she is not walking around the supermarket!
Of course, it could be that by the end of pregnancy, the mom-to-be is merely exhausted.
Many women are in the hospital when their waters break and may be moving around to keep labor progressing. The need to sit down might be explained by needing a rest from all the movement, but as every woman is different, there is no real explanation.
Some women say that just before their waters broke they felt slightly unwell or light headed and felt the need to rest. Possibly there is a hormone change just as the baby pushes down on the cervix and this causes the dizzy spell.
Other women say that they felt very tired in the run-up to the waters breaking and then a sense of relief and removal of pressure once it had happened.
15 Back Pain
There may be a pain in the back before the waters break. This could be because the woman is already in labor and the back pain is part of that process or because the baby is pressing down on the spine and causing discomfort.
Back pain is a common sign of early labor and is intense in women where the baby is lying spine to spine and needs to turn in order to be in optimum position for delivery. If the waters break after a backache, some pain may be relieved by the rupturing. The baby will probably move down the birth canal, releasing the water above its head and this movement may ease pressure on the mother’s back.
14 The Need To Nest
For some reason, it is common among women in late pregnancy to find a sudden burst of energy that gives them the urge to spruce up the house, says Very Well Family. Whether this is down to hormones or just the impending birth and the amount of work that needs to be done to prepare for the arrival isn’t clear.
But just before labor begins and the waters break, many women get out the paint can or the cleaning products and get busy.
Of course, this time can be put to good use. Sorting out the nursery or filling the freezer will be jobs that moms will be glad they have done once the baby arrives.
13 A Wet Feeling
The water within the amniotic sac is divided into two parts. The fore water refers to the fluid below the baby’s head and the hind water is that behind the baby. If the baby is well down the birth canal and pushes on the cervix, the forewaters may be released.
This could give the sensation of a trickle of water rather than the gush depicted in TV and film births. The trickling could carry on for some time, so it is best to wear a pad or liner that will also allow to mom to check the color of the water, it should be clear or light pink.
12 The Baby Moves Toward the Birth Canal
One of the forces that break the water is the baby moving downwards in preparation for coming out of the birth canal.
As the head engages, this puts pressure on the cervix and this is what releases the hormones that start labor. Then, as the baby pushes down, the membranes of the sac may rupture due to the pressure.
This will release the fore water that was lying below the baby’s head and the head will act as a plug to the rest of the water, which will be released later in labor or during the birth.
11 The Doctor May Insert Something
For most women, the force of contractions will be enough to rupture the amniotic sac without intervention. However, some women find that they are in established labor and the waters have not yet broken.
Indeed, it is possible for a baby to be born within an amniotic sac intact.
However, if the labor has slowed down or there are concerns that the baby may have passed meconium, a doctor may insert a long thin implement and break the sac artificially, explains What to Expect.
The waters will also be broken if a ventouse or forceps delivery needs to take place, to allow the doctor better access to the baby.
10 A Change In Pressure
Some mothers experience what they describe as a sudden change in pressure just before their waters break, according to BabyCenter. This is understandable if the sac is likened to a balloon. The sensation is like the gentle popping of a balloon and the resulting movement of air (or amniotic fluid) out into the air.
The waters are likely to break at the peak of a contraction and the sensation may be a sense of relief that the contraction is over, and the baby has moved down.
There will be a feeling of pressure in the pelvic region as the baby descends further on in its journey out into the world.
9 Feeling A Huge Kick
Often the waters will break just before the second stage of labor when the mom is ready to start pushing. The force of the contractions and the pressure of the baby’s head moving down the birth canal in preparation to enter the world can cause the sac to rupture and the waters to be released.
Some moms report feeling a huge kick inside the stomach just before the waters break.
Whether this is the baby reacting to the movement or actually the pressure of the head descending and the baby moving that feels like a kick is uncertain, but moms say they knew something was happening because of the sudden movement of the baby.
8 Sudden Change In Mom’s Movement
If a mom has been sitting or lying for some time and gets up, they report that the waters broke just afterward. Sometimes a mom will get up in the night to use the bathroom and find that the waters break just afterward.
It can cause anxiety to moms who worry that their waters will break in public, but often the water that is released is just the fore water above the baby’s head and this is minimal and may be felt as a small trickle. Keeping some maternity pads handy is a good plan in the last couple of weeks just in case, suggests Bellybelly.
7 Nothing Whatsoever!
Among all the possible symptoms of waters breaking and the feelings that moms experience, there is a percentage of mothers who feel absolutely nothing at all before their waters break and it comes as a total shock.
The sensation of something wet is a sure sign, of course! However, some women find that there were no warning signs and the waters just appeared, either in a trickle or a gush.
Sometimes the waters break right at the end of labor and the sensation is just relief that some pressure has been relieved, and the baby is making progress and the end is in sight.
6 A Dribble of Water
The rupture of the membranes may produce a small trickle of water rather than a huge gush. This is because the hole in the sac may be small, just caused by hormones thinning the membranes enough for them to tear, or it may be that the baby’s head is blocking the majority of the water and only a small amount is released.
It may feel as if you are just going to the bathroom, however, the color of amniotic fluid should be clear or slightly pinkish, rather than pale yellow like urine.
It is useful to put a maternity pad on if there is some trickling, to check the color of the water. If there is any meconium in the waters, the midwife needs to be informed right away.
5 The #2 Feeling
Some moms report that their waters broke just after they had gone poo. This is a natural clearing out of the system in preparation for labor so it may be a coincidence that the two events happened in succession.
Only about 10-15 percent of women experience a gush of water before they go into labor, so most waters break in established labor, by which time most moms are in the hospital.
Often the feeling of needing to poo is a good sign that the body is clearing out any waste material ready for the strain that will be put on the anal area from pushing, so the baby is probably well on its way.
If the mother experiences an infection in the last stage of pregnancy, it sometimes causes premature labor to begin, which can cause the membranes to rupture early.
If this happens after 28 weeks the baby has a good chance of survival, although it may need special care, to begin with.
If the waters do break and there is an infection present, the mom should go to the hospital to be treated to avoid any infection spreading to the baby. Forty percent of premature births in the US are as the result of an infection, so if the mom notices symptoms of an infection it is important to get treatment as soon as possible, warns Healthline.
3 Having The Show
The cervix is protected during pregnancy by a mucus plug that forms during pregnancy and prevents any bacteria from entering the cervix and harming the baby.
As the body prepares for labor, hormones are released, and the cervix begins to efface and dilate. This causes the mucus plug to come away. Baby and Bump report that some moms find that the waters break soon afterward.
The plugs may not signal imminent labor but it is a sign that things are moving in the right direction and once the plug has been released the waters are free to be released.
2 Mother’s Instinct
Sometimes the mom feels a gut instinct that the waters are about to break and she’s right. This is particularly common with second or third-time moms, as they may experience the same symptoms as with previous labors.
There may be no rational explanation for a mother’s instinct, but a mom is eerily in sync with her unborn baby and they share DNA.
There is every reason to trust a mom’s gut feeling, many swear by it. Moms report a strange feeling that they were about to go into labor and have been proven right, so if you feel an instinct that the waters are about to break, get the towels out just in case!
1 A Bit Of Leakage
There may be a touch of stress incontinence in the latter stages of pregnancy when the bladder is compressed, and urine leaks out. Sometimes this can be confused with the trickling of the waters breaking, especially if there are no obvious signs that labor has started.
If this happens, it is wise to catch any leakage with a maternity pad, rather than a sanitary pad.
If labor is on its way, the midwife will want to know the color of the fluid from the amniotic sac to check there is no meconium that could indicate that the baby is in distress.
References: Baby and Bump, Healthline, Bellybelly, Baby Center, What to Expect