Membranes rupturing is also known as your waters breaking.
Your baby is surrounded by waters (amniotic fluid) suspended in a sac (membranes). These offer your baby protection from infection, aid lung development and provide cushioning and support for optimal growth and wellbeing.
Sometimes, your waters will break on their own (spontaneously) before labour begins. How many weeks pregnant you are when this happens is important, as it will determine the course of treatment we offer you going forward.
What does it feel like when my waters break (membranes rupture)?
This sensation can vary. Some women might simply feel damp, others experience a slow trickle, and some a pronounced gush. Although it is generally safe for a short time should your waters break, the risk of infection to you and your baby increases as time progresses. Should you suspect your waters have broken, place a thick maternity pad in your underwear and contact the appropriate maternity team (see below). Wearing a thick pad helps us to check if your waters have broken and spot any potential complications such as meconium – which is where your baby has passed a bowel motion inside you – or bleeding.
Waters break before 37 weeks and before labour starts.
If you experience signs that your waters have broken before 37 weeks, you must contact the maternity assessment unit on 0191 282 5748 immediately. Our medical staff and midwives will assess you, and if they can confirm your waters have broken, they will discuss with you an ongoing plan for your further treatment. This is to help reduce the risk of infection for you and your baby. This will involve regular monitoring of your vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, temperature and breathing rate, swabs and electronic fetal monitoring. You will also be given antibiotics and may be admitted to the antenatal ward for observation for a short period.
Waters break after 37 weeks and before labour starts.
If you experience signs that your waters have broken after 37 weeks and are due to give birth in the Newcastle Birth Centre please call the labour line on 0191 282 6363. If you are due to give birth on delivery suite or you are unsure where you’re going to be giving birth please contact the maternity assessment unit on 0191 282 5748.
When your waters break, it can sometimes – but not always – trigger contractions and labour may start on its own (spontaneously). If your waters have broken, but you show no further signs of immediate labour, you will be offered an augmentation of labour, this is similar to an induction. This will be 18 hours from the time your waters broke. Research has shown that during this time, you are most likely to be more comfortable at home. However, it is important we monitor you and your baby for signs of infection. We do this by providing you with disposable Tempa-dot thermometers for use every 4 hours whilst you are awake.
You might also be offered a membrane sweep to attempt to bring on labour.
You have confirmed my waters have broken – when do I need to call back?
After we have confirmed your waters have broken, you must contact the maternity assessment unit again if you experience any of the following:
- A temperature of 37.2C or above.
- Your fluid turns green or brown– this may indicate your baby has opened their bowels.
- If your fluid is blood stained or red. If slightly pink this is not a cause for concern, more heavily blood stained fluid may indicate a problem
- Your fluid changes smell, particularly if it is offensive.
- You develop flu like symptoms such as feeling hot, cold, achy or shivery.
- If you experience reduced fetal movements or your baby is not moving as they normally would.
- You have regular contractions that are getting more painful, longer and becoming closer together.
- You need pain relief stronger than paracetamol.
- Please also call if you have any further concerns or questions.
When to call 999
Call 999 if:
- You have fresh red vaginal bleeding that is not stopping and is running down your legs.
- You feel like you are about to give birth and do not reasonably think there is enough time to make your own way into hospital.
If you are unsure, please contact the maternity assessment unit before getting an ambulance. We can dispatch an ambulance to you, or advise you to call 999 if we think you must attend urgently.