Recently, a client sent me the above image with the words “It’s happened! My water broke! Water everywhere!”
We’d all been waiting for that baby to start to make their appearance, so this message was full of joy. One way or another, those parents were going to get to meet their little one within a day or so. But….what to do in the meantime?
First, there are a couple of things to pay attention to. I like to ask questions regarding how much amniotic fluid came out, and what color it is.
If your amniotic fluid releases with a trickle–like you’re not sure if you’ve just peed your pants or not–there is absolutely no concern. If it’s a huge, sudden gush–like a water balloon popping–your care provider might want a phone call. The concern is that a sudden rush of amniotic fluid might carry your baby’s umbilical cord along with it, getting a loop of it tucked somewhere unhelpful. Different care providers have different protocols, so do ask ahead of time during a prenatal visit what they would like you to do; they may just want to hear from you again in a few hours, or they may want to have a quick listen to baby to make sure that everything is still just fine.
Amniotic fluid is typically fairly clear–again, it’s likely you won’t be sure if you’ve peed or not. It’s perfectly fine if it has a bit of a pink tinge, but if it’s green, your care provider is going to want to know. Green amniotic fluid means that your baby has passed some meconium–this is digested amniotic fluid, and it’s a bit different than poop. There are a few small concerns if this is the case: very rarely, it can signal a baby that’s starting to have a difficult time in your belly. Again, practices vary by care provider, but typically they would want to monitor your baby a bit more closely in this case. It’s also not ideal for a baby to get any of this meconium-tinged amniotic fluid in their lungs, so it is quite normal for some neonatal respiratory people to just hang out in a delivery room while the baby is born. It is also quite normal for the doctor or midwife to quickly assess the baby and tell the respiratory people that all is well, and they can go back to their own floor.
After your water breaks, you may hear your care providers mention the term SROM (I pronounce that S-Rom). This stands for Spontaneous Rupture of Membranes, and it just means that your amniotic sac popped all on its own. For contrast, AROM is the Artificial Rupture of Membranes, and is the term used when your midwife or doctor breaks your water for you with an Amnihook.
What To Do:
***First, note down time, amount, and color.
***Call your doula. I like to be heading on my way soon after amniotic fluid releases, so please, please get me in motion.
***Call your care provider. Typically, they just want a head’s-up, so that they can start keeping tabs on you if nothing else.
***Take a shower–it’s always refreshing and helps you feel ready to face new things–and get a really good snack.
***Be prepared for the possibility that contractions will either start, or will suddenly ramp up to a greater intensity. (This is another reason to have your doula on either high alert or already on my way.) Most often, getting rid of that cushion of amniotic fluid helps your baby’s head apply right on your cervix, and labor becomes much more effective.
***Also be prepared for the idea that you may not have any contractions at all for a little while. You may have time for a nap. (Which I always think is a good idea.) At the same time, you may eventually need to think of positioning/movement to help encourage labor to get going. It’s fairly typical for care providers to want to see a good contraction pattern within twenty-four hours from when your amniotic fluid released. (This is another great reason to contact your doula: I’ll remind you of the best positions to help encourage those contractions to get going!)
***Above all, don’t panic. While getting a nice little puddle of amniotic fluid does certainly mean that labor–and getting to snuggle your baby–are certainly happening soon, it is very rare that this becomes a rushed event. In my nearly one hundred births (!!) I’ve only had one mother who went from zero contractions to birth in less than an hour after SROM. You’ve got time to breathe, hug each other, and get your doula over.