Water Breaking in Pregnancy: What it Means

Water breaking is a very important sign of labour, as well as possible distress in pregnancy. Most pregnant women feel very uneasy and worried whenever they are pregnant especially if it is their first pregnancy. Water breaking is one of the most common cause of concern among these women and poses a lot of questions, some of which we are going to answer here in this write up.

A 37-week pregnant woman lost her baby and nearly died from sepsis (severe infection) because her water broke and for three days she didn’t go to the hospital. Her reason was that she wasn’t in labor since there was no pain. It was her second pregnancy.

By the time she came to the hospital, her heart rate was 120bpm, Temp = 38.4C. Her abdomen was already painful and the liquor (water from womb) was very offensive.

Severe infection, called Chorioamnionitis, had already set in. Baby was in distress and later died and the battle to save the woman’s life ensued.

Thank God, she made it, but the pain of how ignorance robbed her of the fruits of 9 months journey was etched in her heart for ever.

Please, pregnant women, it is important that you do not joke with your baby, and hence, today, I’ve decided to talk about this “Water Breaking!“, what it means, when it can happen and what you should know when it happens.


What Is “Water Breaking” in Pregnancy?

During pregnancy the unborn baby is covered by a fluid filled sac called “Amniotic Sac” that contains “Amniotic Fluid”. At the beginning of labor, membrane will break up and that is called “WATER BREAKING”. If water breaks before labour, it’s called “Premature Rupture Of Membranes” (PROM).

water breaking
Image Credit: Epainassist

How Do You Know if Your “Water” Has Broken?

There will be a sensation of wetness in the vagina. Drops of small watery fluid from the vagina or just an obvious pour of clear/pale yellow fluid. It can be difficult to differentiate if it’s your water or just urine especially for new mothers. When not sure, run to the hospital.

Because once the membrane breaks, the baby will need to come out because the longer he/she stays, the baby is at risk of infection.

Water Breaking Is A Sign Of Labor

Once water breaks at term, labor will start that is if it hasn’t started. But in cases of what we call “Premature rupture of Membrane (PROM)” where water breaks before labor, your doctor will induce labor (Induction of labor) because the baby is at risk without the membrane covering it.
Note: this is before Labor, not before Term. They are two different things.

What If Water Breaks Too Early (before term)?

If water breaks before term (before 37th week at least), it’s called “Preterm Premature Rupture Of Membrane (PPROM).”

This might lead to the following

  1. Mother and Child infection: e.g, Chorioamnionitis, like the lady in the story has.
  2. Placenta Abruptio– This is when the placenta peels away from the inner wall of the womb.
  3. Premature delivery: to prevent Mother or Child related complications.
  4. Fetal distress that might eventually lead to the death of the baby if nothing is done, as in the story above.

Who Are At Risk Of Preterm PROM

  1. Someone that has had it before in her previous pregnancy
  2. A Pregnant woman that has Infection.
  3. Vaginal bleeding in 2nd/3rd Trimester.
  4. Smoking during pregnancy.
  5. Poor feeding causing malnutrition during pregnancy.
  6. Short length of the cervix.

Register for ante natal for proper follow up!. There are so many benefits of Antenatal care, especially when you start early. Read about that here.

What If Water Doesn’t Break On Its Own.

Once the cervix (gate to the womb) is open during labor and the baby’s head is down in the pelvis but water has not broken, your doctor might do an Artificial Rupture Of Membrane (what we call “Amniotomy”) to allow the baby come out as a princess or Prince.

What to Do After Your Water breaks?

  • Calm down and Take a Deep Breath: Panic would not help you in any way. Instead, it might only make things worse.
  • Remember the COAT of Your water breaking (See below)
  • Make a Change of Underwear: Put on a dry underwear, if possible. Calmly check to see if your water has actually broken or if it is just urine (Yes, this can happen, and it is very normal). To differentiate between your water and Urine, see below.
  • Check the Color and Odor of the Fluid: Urine is usually Coloured while your Amniotic fluid is usually clear (lighter in colour than urine).
  • Go to the Hospital: The doctor would perform some tests on you to know if it is actually your water that has broken or if it is just urine.

Its important to know the “COAT” of your “Water Breaking”:

  • Color of fluid
  • Odour if there was a smell
  • Amount of fluid
  • Time it happened
water broke in pregnancy
Image Credit: VerywellFamily

How to Distinguish Between Urine and Water Breaking?

You can be able to tell the difference between the two fluids by using the smell of the fluid. Urine smells like that of ammonia, very repulsive, just like the normal urine that you know, whereas, your amniotic fluid might be odorless or have a slightly sugary smell. Also Urine is usually coloured while your Amniotic fluid is usually clear (lighter in colour than urine).

I hope you have been able to learn something from this?

Feel free to ask questions and I’d do my best to answer you when I can.


  • Dr. Echibuogu Nelson Tochukwu

    Dr. Echibuogu Nelson Tochukwu currently works as a medical officer at Prince Of Peace Specialist Hospital in Lagos. He holds an MBBS Degree from the Abia State University. He is a story teller, script writer and a lover of sport. You can follow him on twitter below.

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