We’ve all seen movies and television shows where a pregnant character’s water breaks in a sudden gush of fluid splashing to the floor. Usually, she immediately starts having painful contractions and someone rushes to her side to immediately take her to the hospital.
Before you know it, she’s delivered a happy, healthy baby.
Unfortunately, that’s not exactly how it works in real life. If you’re nearing the end of your pregnancy, you’ve probably started thinking about what’s going to happen when you actually go into labor and a lot of women worry about their water breaking.
First-time moms often ask, does it hurt when your water breaks? Well, we have good news for you. Generally speaking, no, it does not hurt when your water breaks. In fact, it can actually bring a little relief.
What Does It Mean When Your Water Breaks?
Like so many things in pregnancy, it depends.
If you’re not yet in labor, your water breaking can be a sign that things are progressing but don’t grab your hospital bag just yet.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that labor is imminent. It could take another day or two for contractions to begin, though sometimes it only takes a few hours.
Believe it or not, most labor begins with contractions, not water breaking. By the time it happens, there’s a good chance that you’ve already been in labor for quite a while. You might even be in the hospital already, hooked up to monitors, possibly enjoying your epidural.
If this is the case, chances are you won’t really notice the moment when your water breaks unless you feel a gush of fluid. Even in this scenario, your water breaking doesn’t necessarily mean that the baby is crowing or that it’s time to push. It just means that the baby and your body are getting ready.
Does It Hurt When Your Water Breaks? What Does It Feel Like?
It’s honestly different for everyone but most women do not report any pain.
Some women feel a slow trickle and have a hard time determining whether their water broke or they’re having a hard time controlling their bladder. Others do get that big Hollywood moment of walking down the street and experiencing a sudden gush of fluid. It’s even possible to hear a small popping sound when the membrane initially breaks.
If you’re in active labor and have opted against an epidural, there is so much going on in your body that you may actually feel your membranes rupture. This is still unlikely to cause any pain. In a lot of cases, the small release of pressure can actually make you feel a little bit of relief.
How Much Fluid Comes Out?
In total, there are roughly 3 cups of amniotic fluid inside the sac. In a gushing scenario, most of this fluid comes out all at once.
On the other hand, if you have a slow leak, it can take a long time to empty and you may even need to use panty liners to absorb the constant trickle of fluid. Sometimes, the amniotic sac doesn’t completely empty and most of the fluid comes out when the baby is delivered.
What Should I Do When My Water Breaks?
The very first thing you should do is call your doctor so she can tell you what to look out for and tell you when it’s time to head to the hospital.
If your water breaks before you’re full term or 37 weeks pregnant, your doctor may want to try to delay the onset of labor to let the baby grow a bit more.
Your doctor will also tell you to go to the hospital if the baby has not arrived 24 hours after your water broke.
The amniotic sac functions as a barrier to the outside world and, when it’s broken, it means that bacteria can get in and possibly cause an infection. You will likely need to be admitted for antibiotics and, if labor doesn’t progress, you might need to be induced.
Another thing you should do is pay attention to the fluid itself. Amniotic fluid should be clear or straw colored.
It might smell faintly sweet but it’s usually odorless. If you notice that it’s foul-smelling, blood-tinged, or is green or black, head to the hospital right away. These things are abnormal and a sign that the baby is in distress.
One Piece of the Process
There are a lot of things that happen to your body during labor. Your water breaking is just one part of the process.
While it’s perfectly normal to worry about every little detail, no one really knows how and when it will happen but most women will tell you, it isn’t painful. Contractions are painful. Pushing is painful. Your water breaking isn’t.