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When the water breaks: ruptured membranes

More commonly known as your “water breaking”, the membrane that encloses the amniotic sac will rupture, either on its own or manually, as you approach delivery, characterized by a discharge of fluid, which ranges widely in quantity. Though a geyser may be a better metaphor for some, many women have difficulty distinguishing their water breaking from simple urinary incontinence.

What causes it?

Nobody is entirely sure what makes a woman’s water break when it does, but generally the membrane of the amniotic sac does not rupture until the baby has reached full term and is developed enough to be born (>39 weeks). However, sometimes the water breaks or leaks prematurely, which usually leads to labor within the week.


The fluid discharged will be clear, though might have white flecks, or have some blood or mucus in it and will not smell. It’s important to be able to identify if it’s a ruptured membrane or simply urinary incontinence, so try to find some time to learn the differences between the liquids.

Either way though, whether you know or just suspect a possible rupture of the membranes, call your healthcare provider right away. Whether your water breaks before the 37th week or after, it’s always a good idea to get into contact with your doctor or midwife.

Reviewed by Dr. Jamie Lo
Read more
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Water breaking: Understand this sign of labor.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 7/18/2013. Web.
  • “Labor and birth.” WomensHealth. Office on Women’s Health, US Department of Health and Human Services, Feb 2017. Web. Accessed 6/28/17. Available at 
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