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What to do when your waters break?

What do you do when your waters break? How are you sure that your waters have gone? As a midwife I get asked these questions all the time.

It is safe for your waters to break at term, ie from 37 weeks onwards.

Amniotic fluid is normally clear or pale straw colour. If it is any other colour or if your waters break before 37 weeks, please contact your hospital.

4 steps to follow

If ‘your waters break’ (known clinically as ‘rupture of membranes‘), you should:

  1. Make a note of the time at which it happened
  2. Check the colour of the fluid
  3. Observe whether you have been feeling baby’s movements as normal
  4. Call your midwife/maternity unit and let them know the above and whether you are experiencing contractions

It is easier to see the colour if you place a sanitary pad in your underwear. A normal colour can be clear, pale straw, or lightly blood-stained. It’s not always a gush of water – sometimes it can be a slow and continuous trickle.

You could also have some “mucous plug or show”. Your ‘mucous plug’ has the consistency of jelly. It can be clear-coloured or blood-stained, and could indicate that your cervix is softening and starting to dilate. If you have a show it doesn’t necessarily mean that labour is imminent – some women have it a week before going into labour, and others only right before the birth itself.

Do waters always break?

Sometimes your waters break before you have surges or contractions and this is very common. However don’t worry – 60% of women will go into labour within 24 hours. Occasionally your waters never break and your baby is born in an intact membrane sac, which is called to be born en caul’ – it is very rare and is thought to be extremely lucky!

If you are having a water birth and your waters go when you are in the pool, it may feel like intense pressure followed by a pop.

If the colour of your waters is greenish, brownish or bright red with fresh blood you should consult your hospital. Green or brown/black waters indicate the presence of ‘meconium’ which is your baby’s first poo. I will write more about meconium in next week’s post.

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