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!
Alexia the Doula
Birth Doula, Childbirth Educator & Postpartum Doula serving Minneapolis, St Paul and the greater Twin Cities area.