So your waters break…now what?

On TV, a woman’s waters breaking is depicted as a gush of water like someone has popped a water balloon. This can happen, but you might also experience a less dramatic slow leak. Ladies arriving at the hospital with a beach towel between their legs have had the gush.

One very thoughtful husband cut two leg holes in a black garbage bag for her to wear like a nappy so she wouldn’t leak on the seat of his new car.

Downpour or drizzle?

What leaks out when your waters break is the amniotic fluid, or liquor (pronounced lykor). A normal liquor volume is between 600 and 1000mls and it doesn’t come out in one gush. Think of an ill-fitting plug in the bath; the water seeps out. If your waters have broken, the fluid keeps coming, even if it is only drip by drip.

If you don’t need a pad, it probably isn’t liquor. Remember, vaginas are self-cleaning devices, producing secretions to keep themselves clean. Secretions as you approach term can be quite watery, and sometimes baby can headbutt your bladder – both of these can sometimes be confused with waters breaking. Secretions are sticky and can be managed with a panty liner. Amniotic fluid is not sticky, can have a pinkish tinge, and will need more than a pad (think hand towel) to manage.

Call your midwife and they will assess how urgently you need to go to the hospital. TV has led many to believe that once the waters break baby is just minutes away. This could be true if you have been in labour for a while and it is not your first child; however, it could be another 24 hours, or, if you are not yet 37 weeks along, even longer.

Tales from the front line

One lady came to the hospital with a supportive but grumpy friend. She had been admiring her friend’s new couch when her waters broke. That $3000, the two-day-old sofa was now soaked in pink-tinged amniotic fluid. A pink tinge is quite normal, just not the colour you want on the lounge! I have always wondered how well liquor cleans out of lounges and who gets the cleaning bill. She was so embarrassed, despite our reassurances she had no control over, or warning of, when her membranes would rupture.


This post has been adapted from one I originally wrote for Mum Central 

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