Water breaking rupture of membranes

■ 3rd trimester

When the amniotic sac leaks or breaks before labor begins, the fluid that has been cushioning the baby comes out in a trickle or gush. This dramatic event is known as the water breaking, or the rupture of membranes. Only about 10 percent of women experience this, however, and it usually occurs at home, often in bed. Your membranes are more likely to rupture sometime during labor, often during the second stage. When it happens, labor usually starts or becomes more intense.

Contact your health care provider if your water breaks. Most health care providers want to evaluate you as soon as it happens because there's a risk of infection after the membranes rupture. There are no deadlines, but generally, unless the baby is very immature, it's best that the baby is born within about 24 hours. Let your health care provider know if the fluid is anything other than clear and odorless. A greenish or foul-smelling fluid could be a sign of uterine infection.

If you're uncertain whether the leaking fluid is amniotic fluid or urine, have it checked by your health care provider. Many pregnant women leak urine during the later stages of pregnancy. In the meantime, don't do anything that could introduce bacteria into your vagina, such as having sex or using tampons.

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