Amniotic fluid is the watery liquid that surrounds the baby/fetus within the uterus. It allows the fetus to move about freely without the hindrance caused by the uterus walls being too tight around it. At the same time, this fluid also provides a cushioning within the uterus and gives the fetus the required buoyancy.
The amniotic fluid begins to fill up the amniotic sac from an estimated 2 weeks of fertilization. Another 10 weeks later, the fluid contains different proteins, carbohydrates, electrolytes, lipids, phospholipids, and urea, which provide nutrition to the fetus. Towards the gravid stages, the fluid begins to contain fetal urine as well. In normal cases, leaking of amniotic fluid is considered one of the prominent signs of an impending labor.
What Happens when Water Breaks
☛ Normally, when the pregnancy completes full term, the membranes of the amniotic sac burst, and the amniotic fluid begins to leak via the vagina. This is called Spontaneous Rupture Of Membranes (SROM). In common parlance, this is also regarded as the time when a woman's "water breaks." However, there are times, when the amniotic sac may develop a tear, or may rupture causing the amniotic fluid to leak before term. If this occurs 37-38 weeks before term, it is referred to as Premature Rupture Of Membrane (PROM). When either of these cases occur, the fluid may just gush out, or may just leak out in a continuous trickle-like discharge.
☛ Know that the amniotic sac may have a bantam opening -- probably the size of a pinhole -- through which the fluid leaks. When you move, or indulge in an activity, the fluid may leak. Besides, if your baby's head is comfortably, yet closely fit over the cervix, i.e., if it is engaged, chances are the amniotic fluid will leak only at intervals and in small amounts.
☛ If only there were fewer instances of imbroglio for women, the decipherability and conclusively identifying amniotic fluid from urine leak, only adds to the scenario. There are a few ways that may provide you with clues to spot the difference. Notice that amniotic fluid is odorless; urine may have a pungent, almost an acidic odor to it. You may also observe that the amniotic fluid continues draining out of the system, and you may have the urge continuing, even when you have relieved your bladder.
☛ Another circumstance where there are dribble leaks reported is known as hind-water leakage. In this type of leakage, a slight perforation crops up. This prompts a leakage from the hole in the sac behind the baby's head. The amniotic fluid may stop completely once the membranous sac closes. This may stop abruptly for a few days. Besides, there may also be a possibility that a woman's water breaks suddenly with a gush. Waters breaking with a gush may sound scary a situation to handle; however, this, luckily is not the case. Just ensure that when you move out, carry a packet of sanitary napkins with underpants, even if that means going to a nearby grocery store.
Understanding the Causes
» When the premature rupture of amniotic sac occurs, it is necessary to determine the cause. Normally, the leaking is caused by a bacterial infection, or by a defect in the structure of the amniotic sac, the uterus, or the cervix. This leakage may lead to further complications for the growth of the fetus. It may cause bacterial infection to spread from the vagina to the uterus, and consequently to the fetus.
» Sometimes, when there is a small tear in the amniotic sac, it may heal itself over the period, and the leaking may simply stop on its own accord. However, if the leaking is a result of a severe rupture of the membranes of the amniotic sac, then labor may begin within a span of 48 hours. When this happens, the mother-to-be must receive treatment in order to avoid causing an infection to the fetus.
» Often what is thought of as leaking drip, may just turn out to be urine leak. Therefore, in such cases, the mother-to-be must ascertain if the fluid is urine or not. Women are advised to wear a sanitary napkin, and observe the color of the liquid. The amniotic fluid is colorless. Also, the mother-to-be must never use a tampon during pregnancy.
Important Note.- Do not attempt to break your water all by yourself, even if you are nearing full term. If anything has to be done, your doctor is the best person to recommend the course and how far must you wait before inducing labor and, eventually scheming the break of waters. Usually, doctors do not recommend a self-induced labor until the last week of the estimated due date.
Dealing with ItDisclaimer: The article published herein, is meant to accomplish pedagogical purposes only. The recommendations mentioned hereby may not be generically applicable. The information, by no means, intends to supplant the diagnosis and advice imparted by the medical practitioner.
Noting the color of the leaking fluid helps in identifying it. Amniotic fluid is yellow, green, brown, or even pinkish in color. On the other hand, the color of urine is different shades of yellow. Urine also has a typical odor, which helps in its identification. A woman must also note that there is a difference between vaginal discharge and amniotic fluid.
If the amniotic fluid is brownish-yellow, green, or any other color, the expectant mother should go to the hospital right away, and consult a physician. She is also advised to note the color of the fluid and the time when the leaking began, and give out the details to the doctor. If the water is broken on completion of the term, the physician will usually deliver the baby within 24 hours in order to avoid the risk of infection. Besides, there are several over-the-counter products available to test, whether the fluid is urine, or amniotic fluid. It is always recommended that one avails these tests to ensure the health of the baby.