The “bag of water” is actually a membranous sac that holds amniotic fluid around your baby. This protective cushion allows your baby to develop healthy lungs and limbs, and shields your baby from bacterial infections that could be acquired from the vagina. Most commonly the bag of water ruptures close to the time of labor or during labor. Occasionally the membrane doesn’t break on its own, allowing a baby to be born with the bag still intact!
When the bag of water breaks, some women hear a little pop. More commonly, the most noticeable sign is a warm gush of fluid that trickles between your legs. If there is a lot of fluid, it can create a substantial flow. Other times, the amount of fluid may be small enough to just dampen your underwear.
If the bag of water breaks earlier than 37 weeks gestation, your health care provider may try to prolong your pregnancy, providing medication to inhibit contractions, and antibiotics to lessen the chance of developing an infection.
After 37 weeks, once your bag of water breaks your health care provider may suggest that you wait for labor to begin spontaneously, or may suggest inducing your labor. You will also be offered antibiotics if you are known to be a carrier of Group B Strep. If you’re not sure whether your bag of water has broken, your health care provider can determine if amniotic fluid is leaking by performing a speculum exam. Keep in mind that once the bag of water has ruptured, you no longer have a protective seal around the baby to prevent infection. You should not put anything inside the vagina, have sexual relations or take a bath.
If you think the bag of water has broken, you should notify your health care provider promptly. Before that point, ask how soon your health care provider likes to be informed if the fluid is clear and you are close to your due date.
Call immediately if:
- the fluid is yellow or green, suggesting the presence of meconium.
- there is a foul smell to the fluid, or you have a fever
- you have been told you are Group B Strep positive.
- you have been told your baby is breech (buttocks first).
- you have been told you are carrying your baby high in your pelvis.
- you’re more than three weeks away from your due date.
- you’re not noticing your baby’s movements.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.