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Signs When It Is Time To Give Birth

By Helen Hurst, DNP, RNC, APRN-CNM

Signs When It Is Time To Give Birth

Contrary to popular myth, you’re not awaiting a flood when your water bag breaks. Here’s how to tell when it happens and when to go the hospital.

Where will you be when it happens? In bed? In line at the grocery store? Most pregnant women worry about when and how to know that their amniotic sac – their water bag – has broken.

Television often shows the water bag breaking with the force of a dam bursting, drenching the surrounding area and sending the mom immediately into the throes of active labor. She’s rushed to the hospital because the baby will deliver any minute! Actually, it’s highly unlikely your experience will be this dramatic.

What’s typical

For many moms, the breaking of the waters happens before labor. You may feel it as a popping sensation, you may notice that your underwear is damp or you may feel a gush or trickle of fluid that you can’t control with your bladder muscles. If the thought of your water bag breaking in bed and ruining your expensive mattress is making you lose sleep, put a waterproof pad or plastic sheeting between your mattress and your fitted sheet.

In the later part of pregnancy your bladder muscles may be a little weaker and it’s possible you may dribble a little bit of urine, and while this sounds embarrassing, it’s very common. But you can tell the difference: amniotic fluid is clear and odorless as compared to urine, which is yellow and smells of ammonia. If your baby has its first bowel movement while in you, it will tinge your amniotic fluid a green or brownish color. Tell you healthcare provider if this has happened.

Create your plan

During your second trimester discuss with your healthcare provider what you should do if your water bag has broken. If you’re 37 or more weeks along, some care providers may let you remain at home to see if your labor starts.

Now is the time to pack your hospital bag if you haven’t already: many providers may want you to deliver within 24 hours but this is not a hard and fast rule.

If you do arrive at the hospital or birth center to learn that your water bag didn’t break don’t be embarrassed! Many moms have a least one trial run to the hospital thinking they’re in labor. The labor and delivery nurses are happy to take care of you now and when you come back truly in labor!

If you think your water has broken:

  • Write down the time, the amount of fluid, what it felt like when it happened, whether more fluid is continuing to come out and the color of the fluid – is it clear? Brown? Greenish?
  • Call your healthcare provider with this information. Most likely you’ll be asked to go to the office, hospital or birth center where a simple test can be detect if there’s any amniotic fluid in your vagina.
  • If you can’t reach your care provider, just go to the hospital or birth center and they can check you out.


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