One of the most vital pieces of information in pregnancy is whether or not an expectant mother’s membranes have ruptured. Once the water has broken, a fetus is no longer protected against infection. If this happens very early in a pregnancy, this can be devastating and endanger the health of mother and child. At term, ruptured membranes mean that it is time to deliver a baby- regardless of whether labor has started on its own. Sometimes the water breaks naturally during the course of labor. Other times, it breaks spontaneously and without warning. It can be a small trickle of fluid or a large gush- either way, it is important for the Mom to recognize what is going on and present to her maternity ward for evaluation.
There are other sources of “leakage” during pregnancy. It is extremely common for a pregnant mom to experience a white to clear, liquidy discharge during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. This typically doesn’t have an odor or cause itching, but can be enough to require a change in panty liners several times a day. This is a harmless discharge of white blood cells and is normal. Another cause of leakage is urine. Pregnant bladders are often not as strong, and forces such as coughing, sneezing and laughing can cause urine to leak. Usually this fluid will have a typical odor and won’t continuously leak.
When a woman’s water breaks, the fluid is typically thin or watery, clear to yellow, sometimes green or blood tinged, and without odor. It will continue to leak, sometimes every time the woman moves or bears down. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish from other sources of leakage. The important thing to know is that any suspicious of ruptured membranes in pregnancy has to be evaluated by a medical professional. This is not something that can wait until the next day or the next OB visit, it should be checked within a few hours.
At the hospital, the nurses or OBs can do a simple speculum exam and a lab test to determine if the water is broken. Sometimes an ultrasound is done to see if the amniotic fluid level is low. If the water is broken, it is time to have a baby, usually by induction of labor. If ruptured membranes are ruled out, a woman can go home to await her baby’s arrival with peace of mind.
Tamar Gottfried is a Board Certified Obstetrician/ gynecologist practicing general Ob/gyn in Mesa Arizona and affiliated with Banner Desert and Banner Gateway Medical Centers. She can be contacted at 480-545-0059. This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be medical advice. See a medical professional before making medical decisions