When you are pregnant, a fluid-filled bag called the
amniotic sac surrounds and protects the fetus. When a hole or tear forms in the sac, it's called a rupture of the membranes. Most women describe this by saying their "water broke."
Your membranes can break by themselves. This is called a spontaneous rupture of the
membranes. It most often happens after active labor has started.
Sometimes the membranes may be ruptured by the doctor or midwife to start or
speed up labor. This is called an artificial rupture of the membranes.
Your contractions may get stronger after your membranes
You may feel a large gush of fluid after the membranes rupture.
The uterus keeps making amniotic fluid until the baby's birth. So you may still feel some leaking, especially right after a hard contraction
(tightening of the muscles of the
Spontaneous rupture of the membranes
Sometimes it can be hard to tell if your membranes have ruptured. As
you get closer to your due date, your uterus puts more pressure on your
bladder. A strong Braxton Hicks contraction or sneeze can cause some urine to leak. You might mistake this for a rupture of the membranes.
If you are lying down when your membranes break, you are more
likely to feel a gush of liquid. If the membranes break when you
are standing up, you are more likely to feel just a trickle. That's because the baby's head
gets pushed down against the cervix and acts like a cork when you stand.
If you think your membranes have ruptured:
Call your doctor. He or she may want to check you as soon as your membranes
Don't put anything in your vagina. Don't have
sexual intercourse or flush the vagina with fluid (douche).
You can also go to the hospital or birthing center. The health professionals there will test the drainage to see
if it is amniotic fluid.
Amniotic fluid is normally a cloudy-white to an amber-straw color.
Let your health professional know if the leaking fluid:
Is dark or greenish.
Meconium (from a baby's first bowel movement) may be
in the fluid.
Smells bad. This could be a sign of infection in the
Is bloody. Small streaks of blood are normal. But if the
entire fluid is stained with blood, it could be a sign of a problem with the
Artificial rupture of the membranes to induce labor
To start (induce) or speed up labor, the doctor may
rupture your membranes. This should only be done after your
cervix has started to open (dilate) and the baby's
head is firmly descended (engaged) in your pelvis. If the membranes are
ruptured too early, the umbilical cord could slip down around
or below the baby's head. (This is called a cord prolapse.) If the cord gets squeezed between the
baby's head and the pelvis bones, the blood supply to the baby may be decreased
To rupture your amniotic sac, your doctor
inserts a sterile plastic hook into your
vagina. It may look like a long crochet hook,
or it may be a smaller hook attached to the finger of a sterile glove. The hook
is used to pull gently on the amniotic sac until the sac breaks. This is usually not painful. You may feel a large gush of fluid. The uterus keeps making amniotic fluid until the
baby's birth. So you may still feel some leaking, especially right after
a hard contraction.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerKirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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