The amniotic sac surrounds the baby, cushioning them while in the uterus. As you get closer to your due date you may have heard that the amniotic sac might break (also called rupture of membranes or water breaking) signaling that labor’s going to begin. So here’s what to look for if your water breaks at home.
The amniotic sac grows out of the placenta protecting your baby in a cushion of fluid. The amniotic sac also protects the baby from bacteria by blocking the bacteria from getting to the baby. The amniotic sac is filled with baby, the placenta and amniotic fluid. As your pregnancy continues, the amniotic fluid will become mostly baby urine that your baby will drink in and excrete back out. In addition, the placenta helps manufacture amniotic fluid. When your water breaks, it's amniotic fluid that leaks out.
Yes, your baby is fine. When the bag of water breaks or is ruptured by a care provider (called amniotomy or artifical rupture of membranes) the fluid that comes out is just what's around the top of the baby’s head. Your baby still has plenty of fluid surrounding their body. As long as the placenta is doing its job, there’s still plenty of fluid around the baby until you deliver.
Despite what happens in movies, only 10% of women start their labors with their water suddenly breaking. In the majority of women, the amniotic sac breaks after many hours of contractions. In some rare situations, women will actually deliver the babies still in the amniotic sac.
One of the first things you’ll want to look at if your water breaks is the color of the fluid. Clear, slight yellow tinge or even pinkish is normal. But a green, brown or dark yellow color indicates that your baby had a bowel movement (called meconium) before birth. This can indicate the baby’s a little stressed out, meaning your care provider will want to keep a close watch on the baby during the birth.
The next thing you’ll want to look for is whether your amniotic fluid smells. Amniotic fluid has a light, sweet smell to it. But a foul, stinky odor indicates infection that your care provider will want to treat with antibiotics before the baby is born.
Was it a trickle or was it a gush of fluid? A gush of fluid is an obvious sign that your water broke. But a trickle might be confused with urine leakage, especially as the baby puts more pressure on your bladder. So if you’re not certain whether the fluid coming out is urine or amniotic fluid, contact your care provider for instructions.
The final thing your care provider will want to know is what time did your water break? Many care providers put deadlines on the amount of time they’ll let you labor before they want the baby born either vaginally or with a c-section. This is due to the risk of infection. Once the bag of water breaks, bacteria can get up into the uterus and make you and your baby sick. The more time that goes by with the bag of water’s broken, the higher the likelihood bacteria will get into the uterus and multiply.