I get these two questions all the time, as a doula and childbirth educator. Truth is, when I was pregnant, I had these same questions.
Alright, story time. Flash back to 2014. I’m 8 months pregnant and teaching 7th grade English. My co-teacher was also pregnant, due around a month after me. We shuffled past each other between the narrow rows of students, our bellies practically touching. You could see on their faces, they were a little fascinated, bewildered, curious.
One of our students was particularly concerned about the possibility of labor starting while I was teaching. “Ms. Stern, what if your water breaks in the middle of class?” she asked. “Oh no, don’t worry, that’s not going to happen,” I said confidently, and continued teaching.
After class, I sat back down at my desk and my thoughts began to race, “Wait, what if my water DID break in class. Would it get all over the floor? What if the kids were silently reading?”
The facts on water breaking
In reality, this can be a big fear for people, especially those with professions where you need to be on your feet and “on” in front of other people. A few things to know:
- Only 8–10% of people will have their water break before labor begins.
- It may start as a trickle or small gush, rather than a dramatic movie-worthy flood.
- No one knows for sure what causes the bag of waters to break. “Stripping the membranes” (at a prenatal visit around 39-41 weeks) can increase the risk of the bag of waters releasing. Uterine, vaginal or urinary infections can do the same.
Flash back to 2014: No exciting water-breaking story to report. In fact, it was MANY hours into labor at the hospital when my water broke.
Here’s what you need to know about your water breaking:
Did I just pee? If you’re not sure if it’s your water breaking or a little bit of urine:
- Go to bathroom to urinate. Empty your bladder fully by lifting your belly off your bladder when you’re sitting.
- Then, lay down on your side for 10-15 min.
- Stand up.
- If water has pooled in the vagina and comes out when you stand, your water has likely broken. Call your medical provider to get their guidance.
What to look for
If you suspect your water has broken, pay attention to C.O.A.T— color, odor, amount and time it broke. Amniotic fluid is usually clear or white. If it is greenish or brown, please call your provider. The fluid is odorless or has a slightly sweet smell.