When your Waters Break Early before Labour

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					When your waters break early before labour
(between 37-42 weeks)
(Term prelabour rupture of membranes)

Information for you
Published February 2009


How will I know if my waters have broken?

You may notice a ‘gush’ of fluid or you may feel damp. The fluid (known as
amniotic fluid) is a clear or pinkish colour. It may be slightly blood stained. The
amount of fluid you lose may vary from a trickle to a gush. This usually
happens once labour has started.

Breaking of the waters is also known as rupture of the membranes. If your
waters break early, it is also referred to as prelabour rupture of membranes.

What should I do?

If you think that you are leaking fluid from the vagina, it is advisable to wear a
sanitary pad (not a tampon) and monitor the colour and smell of the fluid, as
well as how much is leaking. Sometimes the leaking fluid is urine. Leaking
urine can be normal during pregnancy. Leaking amniotic fluid smells different
from the smell of urine. If you think the fluid is amniotic fluid, contact your
local hospital. If you are having a planned homebirth contact your community
midwife. Most women (60%) go into labour within 24 hours.

What happens next?

You will need a careful check-up, which may include:

   •   a discussion with your midwife/doctor about what happened and
       whether you have experienced this in a previous pregnancy (if it has
       happened before, it is more likely to happen again)
   •   If there is a certain history of rupture of the membranes at term the
       midwife/doctor does not need to carry out a speculum examination.
   •   If you have an uncertain history of prelabour rupture of membranes,
       your midwife/doctor will need to use a speculum to look at your cervix
       (entrance to the uterus) and see if the leaking fluid is amniotic fluid.
   •   a check of the baby’s heartbeat.


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If your waters have not broken, you will be able to go home. If only a very
small amount of amniotic fluid leaks at first, it is not always easy to confirm
that your waters have broken. If you continue to leak fluid at home, you should
contact your midwife/hospital for a further check-up.

What caused it?

For most women, the reason their waters have broken early is not known.

The baby is surrounded by fluid within a bag of membranes. The vagina is not
sterile and always contains healthy bacteria. There is a link between waters
breaking and the growth of certain types of bacteria in the vagina. These
bacteria produce enzymes that can weaken the membranes and cause the
waters to break too soon and fluid to leak out.

It is unlikely that:

    •   anything you did caused your waters to break early
    •   anything could have been done to prevent this from happening.

When can I go home?

If your waters have broken, you may be advised that you need to stay in
hospital until the baby is born. However, going home may be an option if you
can return to the hospital easily . You will need to check for signs of infection
when you are at home.

What should I do at home?

Your membranes breaking increases your baby’s risk of serious infection from
0.5 to 1%. Therefore, you will be advised to take your temperature every 4
hours while you are awake and to tell your midwife/labour ward if you develop
a temperature. You should report immediately any change in the colour or
smell of your vaginal discharge or any decrease or change in your baby’s
movements. You can have a shower or a bath but should be advised against
sexual intercourse because of the increased risk of infection.

What are my options for giving birth?

If you have not gone into labour on your own within 24 hours, the risk of
infection increases. You should be offered drugs to start your labour artificially
(this is called ‘induced labour’) approximately 24 hours after rupture of the
membranes.

It will be recommended that women who have not gone into labour within 24
hours of their waters breaking give birth in hospital. You should also stay in
hospital for at least 12 hours following birth so your baby can be monitored.




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Following the birth there is still a risk of infection for your baby (for up to 5
days but particularly in the first 12 hours). Contact your midwife, hospital or
GP immediately if you are worried.

Sources and acknowledgements;

www.rcog.org.uk

www.nice.org.uk - Intrapartum Care guidelines, September 2007.

Compiled by Claire Homeyard, Consultant Midwife (Public Health) &
Supervisor of Midwives.




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