My Water Broke.-What Happens Next?

It’s one of the most common questions a pregnant woman asks. We all wonder about it, and many of us imagine its happening. You’re at the grocery store, in aisle 4, and suddenly Whoosh! You are standing in a puddle of your own fluid, wondering what the heck just happened.

Or, you wake up at 3:00 a.m. to realize the bed beneath you is wet. Oh, no! You wet the bed?! Wait, no, your water broke!

There are a multitude of scenarios that can cycle through our heads when it comes to just how the water breaks and when. Rest assured, if you’re a first-time mom with jittery questions about this phenomenon, you’re far from alone.

Here is a breakdown of just what is going on when your water breaks, what it might feel like and what to do if you think it’s happened.

What’s going on

The breaking of the waters, as it’s sometimes called, occurs when amniotic fluid drains from a hole in the amniotic sac around the baby. It rarely occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy.

“No one knows for sure what starts the chemical chain reaction that begins labor,” says an article on the pregnancy website,, “but experts point to a number of complicated factors, including brain signals from the fetus.”

What it feels like

When the sac breaks, you might experience any combination of these three signals: a general sensation of wetness; a continuous trickle or an obvious gush. If the liquid is clear and odorless, you can bet it’s probably your water breaking.

Dr. Leah Ridgway, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Women’s Health Associates in Shawnee Mission, says an initial gush is pretty common. “Typically, there is a gush of fluid that soaks the underwear,” she says. “It’s something that the woman can’t control.”

Labor contractions may or may not begin right away once your water breaks. It’s also possible that labor won’t begin for another 12-24 hours.

Don’t stress too much that you’ll experience that great big gush in public. Only 5-10 percent of women experience their water breaking prior to labor’s onset, says Ridgway. So the chances are good that you’ll have plenty of warning.

Steps to take

The first thing to do if you think your water has broken is to call your doctor.

“Most of the time,” says Ridgway, “we’ll have patients come in to confirm their water broke and make sure the baby is okay.”

Key on the checklist is to ensure that the umbilical cord is in an okay position, that the amniotic fluid is clear and that the baby is deep in the pelvis, ideally head down. The doctor also will check whether and how the labor is progressing, and can help stimulate labor if necessary.

“Don’t panic,” Ridgway says. “Just call us. We’ll assess the situation and go forward from there.”

You can be prepared for the possibility of your water breaking beforehand by stashing sanitary pads (not tampons) in your purse, near your bed and in the bathroom. You also can place a waterproof mattress cover over your mattress, in the event your water breaks during the night.

MY WATER BROKE! Two Women’s Stories

Aleaka Morgan, speech pathologist and mother of two, Shawnee, "I was bending over to put a leash on our dog when my water broke. I was just shy of 37 weeks pregnant and had gone to the doctor earlier that day for a checkup. It felt like I had peed my pants, but I had just used the bathroom. I called my husband and told him my water broke. I remained calm. I wasn’t having contractions yet, so I wanted to shower and tie up a few loose ends before we went to the hospital. Instead, my husband carried me to the car and drove me to the hospital. My son arrived via C-section the following morning."

Laura Crews, stay-at-home mother of one, Independence, "I went to the bathroom at 5:00 a.m. and felt a trickle down my leg. I was full term, so I wasn’t too shocked. There were no contractions at first, so I called my doctor and asked whether I could shower before heading to the hospital. She said no; she wanted me to come to the hospital immediately. The contractions started around 8:00 a.m., after we arrived at the hospital. Our tiny tornado, Eli, arrived later that night."

Kate Meadows is a Louisburg mother of two. Her water broke with her first child; the doctor broke her water for her second. Kate writes about the beautiful, messy collision of writing and motherhood at

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