What to Do If Your Waters Break in Public
A lot of pregnant women worry about where their waters will break and whether they will be embarrassed when it does happen, especially if it is in public.
What does ‘waters breaking’ mean?A growing baby in the womb is housed in a sac filled with fluid during the pregnancy. When the baby is ready to be born, this sac splits and the fluid surrounding the baby leaks out; this is called the ‘waters breaking’.
Can it happen at any time?Your waters can break at any time and you really have no control over the occurrence. Ideally every woman’s waters would break when the baby was exactly at nine months gestation which would give it the best chance of a healthy start in life; however this is not always the case.
Is there much fluid?When a baby has grown in the womb for the whole nine months (or very near), there is usually around 800ml of fluid surrounding the baby which is mostly made up of the baby’s own urine by the end of the pregnancy. This fluid serves as both a protective cushion for the baby and also provides some valuable nutrients and other products that assists in the baby’s development.When the waters break it can come as a big and very noticeable gush, or it can trickle out almost continually depending on the size of the tear in the membrane of the sac.
Does it happen to everyone?Everyone who is expecting a baby will have fluid surrounding the baby and in order for the baby to be born the sac of fluid must rupture to allow for the passage of the child. Most women find that their waters rupture spontaneously as they go into labour or shortly after the pains have started, but for a few they must be broken by the doctor or midwife if they haven’t broken on their own.
This is done by placing a very small hook through the cervix (which has dilated enough to allow for the hook to pass so minimal discomfort is felt). The hook catches the membranes and causes a hole which allows the fluid out.
The labour should then progress and the baby is born shortly afterwards.
There are a few women however who will be told that their waters have broken very early and the small trickles of fluids that the woman thought was bladder leakage was actually the amniotic fluid. If labour has not begun or the pregnancy has not reached full gestation this can pose a few problems. Firstly the baby may not be ready for birth and be too immature to survive without assistance in the outside world and it also increases the likelihood of getting an infection as there is no (or decreased) protective barrier between the outside world and the baby.
If this does occur, the doctors and midwife will assess your condition individually and treat accordingly depending on your circumstances.
How to minimise embarrassment if they break in publicFor most women, the experience of the waters breaking cannot be controlled however there may be certain things you can do to lessen the embarrassment. When you reach around 37 weeks try and remember to wear a sanitary pad as this may help if your waters break but only start with a trickle. Do not use tampons as this increases the risk of infection. Carrying a small towel with you may also be useful especially if your waters break and you need to get into a car or a taxi and do not want to wet the seats!
If however, your waters break in a gush, there may not be much you can do to avoid feeling slightly conscious about it if you are in public; fortunately, the public is very supportive of pregnant women and will not be embarrassed or uncomfortable if it does happen.
Your waters breaking is a good sign of your pregnancy and is often the first sign that your baby is ready to enter the world. Although it can be a little embarrassing, most women don’t think much about this as they are too concerned in having a healthy birthing experience.