Funny how the media portrays labor beginning: Water breaks everywhere, woman screams, hails a cab, shows up at the hospital and baby is born less than 5min. Woah! What drama! Seems like a woman in labor = everyone should freak out.
Let’s talk about how it really goes. You are within 39-41weeks (as evidence supports about 90% of women go into labor on their own within these two weeks), you go to bed, get your fort of pillows built up around you and finally find a comfortable position to fall asleep. In the middle of the night, you wake to the feeling of you peeing yourself. “Ah balls!” is your thought as you check to see if your partner is still asleep. So, you sprint (as quickly as a 39-41week woman can sprint) to the bathroom to clean up. You go back to bed and as your leg hugs your pregnancy pillow, you feel more pee come out again. “WTF? I’ve lost full control of my body”
Are you peeing yourself? Maybe. But maybe your water is leaking. Meaning, your water might have broken.
So, here’s the real deal…
About 8-10% of women start labor with their water breaking.
That’s all! Only about 8-10%. For the rest, it typically breaks the closer you are to pushing.
Okay, so what does water breaking have to do with tacos? Well, if your water breaks outside of your birthplace you’ll want to take note of TACO.
(T.A.C.O.) Time, Amount, Color, Odor
These are things that your prenatal healthcare provider will want to know.
TIME – There is an increased risk of infection as time passes once your water breaks, especially with more frequent vaginal exams. Your midwife or doctor may want to induce labor if contractions do not start on their own within 12-24hrs.
AMOUNT – No, you don’t need to squeegee the fluid into a measuring cup to see how many ounces you are leaking. Just note whether it is a trickle or a gush. If you are unsure if your water has broken, go to the bathroom, urinate, place a medium flow sanitary pad in your underwear, go lay down on your side for 10-15 minutes and then stand up. If water has pooled in your uterus and/or vagina and comes out when you stand up or if your pad fills up within half an hour, it would be a strong indication that your water broke.
COLOR – Should be clear. Yellow or greenish brown color would indicate that baby had a bowel movement in utero called meconium.
ODOR – A mild or odorless smell is normal but a strong odor may indicate infection.
After your water breaks, make sure to place a sanitary napkin in your underwear as you will continue to leak with many position changes and/or during a contraction as your placenta continues to produce amniotic fluid until it is birthed.
*If your water breaks and you are Group B Strep positive, your prenatal healthcare provider will want you to come to the birthplace right away so that they may administer antibiotics to you (as recommended by the CDC).
*If your water breaks, Group B Strep negative and are not having contractions, you may consider staying home to try to bring on contractions (evidence supports within 12hours 45% of birthers will begin to experience contractions). Walking and hula hoops on a birth ball can be helpful during this time.
*In labor, your prenatal healthcare provider will break your bags of water to ”help move your labor along” (aka augment labor). You always have a choice in this and have the right to discuss the benefits, risks and alternatives before following your intuition about this procedure (also called AROM, artificial rupture of membranes).
*As noted above, typically your water will break on its own at some point during labor. If this happens, let your healthcare team know so they can note TACO as well as provide you a pad for the continuous leaking.
Happy leaking from your vagina friends!
Remind yourself that early labor contractions are your body working very hard, building up to stronger, longer contractions. So this is very little reason to feel disappointed!
So here are my top 5 tips to cope with early labor:
Tip #1: Avoid Telling Family and Friends! -- You are probably already sick of people asking you if the baby has arrived yet (uh, yeah, we would've told you!), so you can imagine how frustrating things could get if you tell them you are in early labor. Because it’s going to take some time before the baby is actually ready to be born, telling others that you are in labor only serves to heighten the anticipation and pressure.
Tip #2: Rest, Rest, Rest! -- This is the number one tip I mention over and over in all my classes, REST. Labor takes a lot of energy and you need to reserve it for when labor intensifies. Rest does not mean sleep; if you can sleep that is great, but some moms feel anxious and cannot fall asleep so instead lay down and watch a favorite movie/show or read a book/magazine. Your partners biggest, and hardest, job will be to tell you to go rest. Depleting what energy you have now can lead you to feeling exhausted too early. Wait on a bath until active or transitional labor; the weightlessness works against gravity and can result in slower or stalled labor. If you do want to use water for pain relief, soak under the shower instead.
Tip #3: Keep Yourself Distracted - Start a Simple Project or Finish Packing Your Labor Bag -- Plan some things now with your partner to keep you distracted, especially in the form of some simple projects you have been meaning to do. Bake a treat for your nurses or yourself when you return home, gets your nails done, go get a massage, write in your journal, scrapbooking, knitting, file away photos or recipes, rearrange things you have been meaning to in a while. This way time will pass a little faster and you will have achieved something at a time when you might feel like you are not achieving much at all (even though your body is doing a lot of work)! Plus this one is silly to mention, but double check your labor bag for any last minute items and throw it in the car. Just another thing to keep you distracted.
Tip #4: Eat and Drink Lightly -- Keep up your water levels to avoid dehydration, while visiting the bathroom often to make room for baby to come down. Food wise, you want to eat foods that are going to give you lasting energy, so carbs are a great option (I'm a fan of Oatmeal). Some women might say that they don’t like to eat prior to labor, out of concern they will only throw up, but it’s very important for your energy levels and for baby to eat in early labor. Some women will throw up regardless due to hormones – I’m sure most of us would rather throw up food than bile! Yuck!
Tip #5: Don’t Feel Disappointed! -- If your labor is taking longer to establish than you hoped, don’t feel disappointed! Your body is working very hard – and if it’s any consolation, some women find that when they have longer early labors, they have a shorter active labor. The early part of your labor is not in any way a sign of what is to come. The time it takes to get to active labor does not mean that it will take that long to get to the next phase. Remember, feeling anxiety or stress can slow or stall your labor – and that’s the last thing you want to do! Enjoy this special time before your baby arrives – you have got a great big job ahead of you and you can totally rock it!
Happy Birthing, Alexia
Alexia the Doula
Birth Doula, Childbirth Educator & Postpartum Doula serving Minneapolis, St Paul and the greater Twin Cities area.