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Health & Pregnancy

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Pregnancy and Signs of Labor

What Happens When My Water Breaks During Labor?

The rupture of the amniotic membrane (the fluid-filled sac that surrounds the baby during pregnancy) may feel either like a sudden gush of fluid or a trickle of fluid that leaks steadily. The fluid is usually odorless and may look clear or straw-colored. If your "water breaks," write down the time this occurs, how much fluid is released, and what the fluid looks like, and then notify your health care provider. Although labor may not start immediately after your water breaks, delivery of your baby will occur within the next 24 hours.

Lastly, keep in mind that not all women will have their water break when they are in labor. Many times the doctor will rupture the amniotic membrane in the hospital.

What Is Effacement and Dilation of the Cervix?

During labor, your cervix gets shorter and thins out in order to stretch and open around your baby's head. The shortening and thinning of the cervix is called effacement. Your health care provider will be able to tell you if there are changes to the cervix during a pelvic exam. Effacement is measured in percentages from 0% to 100%. If there are no changes to the cervix, it is described as 0% effaced. When the cervix is half the normal thickness, it is 50% effaced. When the cervix is completely thinned out, it is 100% effaced.

The stretching and opening of your cervix is called dilation and is measured in centimeters, with complete dilation being at 10 centimeters.

Effacement and dilation are a direct result of effective uterine contractions. Progress in labor is measured by how much the cervix has opened and thinned to allow your baby to pass through the vagina.

When Should I Call My Health Care Provider or Go to the Hospital?

When you suspect you are in true labor, call your health care provider. Also, call:

  • If you think your water has broken.
  • If you are bleeding (more than spotting).
  • If the baby seems to be moving less than normal.
  • When your contractions are very uncomfortable and have been coming every five minutes for an hour.

Your health care provider will give you specific guidelines about when you should get ready to come to the hospital.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH on September 18, 2014
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