What Actually Happens When Your Water Breaks?

Most of us have seen at least one movie or TV show during which a soon-to-be mom yells out, “My water broke!” And soon after, the baby is delivered. But despite its common use in popular culture, “water breaking” is still pretty mysterious to a lot of people, including expectant mothers.

At Women's Health Services in Arlington, Texas, our team believes in educating moms-to-be so they know what to expect at every stage of pregnancy, including labor and delivery. In this post, learn what really happens when your water breaks and how this key sign fits into labor and delivery.

It’s not actually water

OK, maybe it’s obvious, but despite its description, when your water breaks, it’s actually amniotic fluid that’s leaving your body. Amniotic fluid is contained within the amniotic sac, a durable membrane that surrounds your growing baby. 

Inside the amniotic sac, the amniotic fluid provides a comfortable, protective environment for the developing fetus, enabling the baby to grow and develop normally. It also protects the umbilical cord, promotes lung development, and helps regulate the temperature around the fetus.

Initially, amniotic fluid is composed of fluid from your own body, along with nutrients, antibodies, and hormones. As your baby grows, the fluid composition changes, with most of the fluid coming from your baby.

What happens when your water ‘breaks’

Water “breaking” refers to the rupture of the amniotic sac that can sometimes happen before or during labor. The sac breaks in response to other changes as your body prepares for the birth of your baby.

While most depictions imply a great amount of fluid gushing from your vagina, in most cases, the flow is much smaller. In fact, some women mistake it for urine leakage. Other times, you may actually feel a gush of fluid rushing from your vagina.

Interestingly, while amniotic sac rupture is fairly common during labor, it doesn’t always happen on its own. In some cases, your obstetrician will break the sac once you’re admitted to help move labor and delivery along.

What to do when your water breaks

Because the amniotic fluid protects your baby from injury and helps prevent infection, if your water breaks, it’s important to call the office right away. Make a note of when you felt your water break, if you’re having contractions, or if you have nausea, bleeding, or other symptoms. 

We can tell you what steps to take next, including whether to proceed to the hospital or come in to our office, depending in part on what other signs you may be experiencing (like contractions). Depending on your needs, we may take a sample of the fluid for testing.

If you’re in active labor, we may decide to admit you right away. If labor hasn’t begun, we may monitor you for a period of time or admit you and induce labor. In any event, regardless of where you are in the labor process, it’s very important to call us right away when your water breaks so we can determine the next best steps for you and your baby.

Get the answers to your pregnancy questions

Pregnancy is a time of excitement and a time of anxiety, especially if you’re not sure what to expect. Our team is ready to help you get the information and care you need to help you feel confident through every stage of pregnancy, right through labor and delivery.

To learn more about our pregnancy services or to schedule a prenatal visit, call 817-277-9415 or book an appointment online today at one of our two Arlington offices with the team at Women’s Health Services.

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