Q&A: How soon after my waters break will I go into labour?

Posted in Pregnancy FAQs and tagged , .

Question & Answer

If you believe what you see in the movies, the first sign of labour is a climatic gushing of water (usually somewhere public). But in reality, it very rarely happens that way.

Has anyone else had the ‘did my water break or did I wet myself dilemma? I honestly could go either way. I’m 39 weeks tomorrow and don’t know what to do. Hazel ~ Autumn 2023 Due Date group.

The truth is that every labour is different, and while some labours may start with a dramatic breaking of the amniotic sac, others are a trickle, and some mums don’t have their water break until right at the business end (or not at all).

What does it mean when your water breaks?

The ‘water’ is actually the fluid inside the amniotic sac, which has been protecting your little nugget for the past nine months. When your bub is almost ready to make an appearance, the sac breaks, and the liquid comes out.

What does it feel like?

Again, this is different for every woman. Some may feel a ‘pop’ or a sensation, others will just feel the moisture (and some of us assume we’ve just wet ourselves – oh, the joys of pregnancy!). For most women, though, it won’t be a huge gush, but rather a slow trickle.

If you’re not sure whether you have actually done a wee, or if it is your water, just check the liquid – if it’s yellow and smells like ammonia, it’s probably wee. If it doesn’t smell or smells a little sweet, it’s probably amniotic fluid. And if it’s your waters you won’t be able to control it or stop it.

But if you’re unsure, always give your caregiver a call, especially if you’re still a while off your due date.

Does my water have to break for labour to start?

No. Only about 15 per cent of women experience their water breaking before they go into labour. It’s more likely your labour will start with contractions, and your water will break sometime later when you’re in hospital or will be ruptured later on in labour by your obstetrician.

What if my water breaks, but I’m not feeling any contractions?

This is normal too, it can take up to 24 hours to feel contractions after your water breaks, but most women will feel their labour kick in within 12 hours. And here’s a fun fact – your body keeps making amniotic fluid up until bub is born, so there’s no chance of it running out after your water breaks.

If your contractions haven’t started at around the 24-hour mark, your obstetrician will usually induce labour, just to prevent any infection.

Read next …

Got more questions about labour? These next articles have you covered:

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