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What Happens When Your Water Breaks During Pregnancy

Updated on February 22, 2012

Stages of Labor

Most first time mothers think that labor starts like in the movies, with lots of screaming and running about to get to the hospital. Unfortunately, things don't happen so quickly for the majority of women in labor. Labor is typically divided into three stages:

  1. Latent stage - Longest part of labor, where you will experience contractions, dilation, and the transition of the baby down the birth canal.

  2. Pushing stage - The point where your cervix has dilated 10cm and you are ready to birth your baby.

  3. Delivering the Placenta - In which your placenta will separate from the uterus and be expelled from your body.

How to tell if you're in labor

Labor begins in several different ways, depending on the woman:

  • Nesting urges - you may feel the urge to tidy, in preparation for your little one

  • Cramps or backache

  • Frequent bowel movements

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Bloody show or plug - mucus which is expelled from your cervix

  • Contractions - feeling periodic pains, equally spaced apart

  • Waters breaking

What happens when your water breaks

For those whose water breaks indicating the first sign of labor, it will usually break when you’re sleeping, getting out of bed, or it might even be a small leak that you don’t even notice right away. Some women even mistake bladder weakness as their waters breaking. Here are some ways to tell if it is in fact your waters:

  • You have no control over the flow

  • If you put on a pad, it’s wet more than once

  • It doesn’t smell like urine

Your waters should be clear or may have a slight pinky tinge. If they are green, brown or any other colour you should get checked out by your doctor or midwife right away. This may be an indication of meconium in your waters.

The amniotic sac surrounds your baby with the hindwaters above the head and the forewaters between the head and your cervix. If your waters break and there is only a small gush or trickle, this could be because only the forewaters have escaped. The baby’s head works like a cork, stopping all the hindwaters from escaping.

When your waters do break, some hear a pop sound, some don’t. The amount of water might be a gush or just a trickle – it’s different for everyone. But remember, if it does happen, stay calm and positive as full on labour might still be a long way off. Relax, put your feet up, and enjoy the ride!


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