Your unborn baby lies in an amniotic sac of fluid or ‘waters’. ‘Waters breaking’ means that the sac has ruptured or broken. Your waters normally break around the time labour is due but in around 2% of pregnancies they break early for various reasons (see below).
If your waters break before your baby has reached full term (37 weeks), the medical name for it is preterm prelabour rupture of the membranes, or PPROM. If this happens early, before the contractions start, it can (but does not always) trigger early labour.
This page deals with waters breaking early before 37 weeks. Read here about what to expect when your waters break AFTER 37 weeks.
Have my waters broken early (PPROM)?
If your waters have broken early, you will experience it as a trickle or a gush of water from your vagina. It is likely to continue leaking once it has started If it isn't too heavy you can use a sanitary towel to catch it. This will also allow you to see what colour it is, which will be helpful information for health professionals. It may be pinkish if it contains some blood, or it may be clear. If it greenish or brown go to the maternity unit as soon as possible. If it is heavy, you may need to use a towel.
Phone your maternity unit immediately for advice.
What are the risks if my waters break early (PPROM)?
If your waters break early the risks and treatment are dependent on the stage of pregnancy you are at.
- You are at risk of going into labour prematurely – the health risks for the baby of early birth are greater the younger they are.
- If you do not go into labour, you and the baby are at risk of infection.
The doctors have to balance these two considerations. If the waters have broken because of infection, you and the baby have a high risk of getting the infection and you may need to deliver sooner to prevent this.
If the waters have broken but there is no infection currently present, you and the baby are still at risk but the immediate risk is lesser and your treatment will depend on your stage of pregnancy.
If you are under 24 weeks of pregnancy and the baby is born, sadly, it is unlikely the baby will survive.
What will happen if my waters break early (PPROM)?
You are likely to have an internal examination. This will allow the doctor to look at your cervix and check:
- if the leaking fluid is amniotic fluid
- if it is changing in preparation for labour
- to check for infection by taking a swab.
You might have an ultrasound scan to estimate the amount of fluid left around your baby.
If only a very small amount of amniotic fluid leaks, it is not always easy to be sure whether your waters have broken.
- You may be advised to wear a pad and stay in hospital for a few hours to monitor the situation.
- If you go home but continue to leak fluid at home, you should return to the hospital again.
If your waters are shown to have broken, you will be advised to come into hospital for at least 48 hours. You and your unborn baby will be closely monitored for signs of infection. This will include having your temperature and pulse taken regularly, and your baby’s heart rate will also be monitored.
Going home from hospital with PPROM
If there is no infection present you may be able to go home. You will be at risk from infection however, and you will need to self-monitor by
- checking that your temperature is normal (37 °C or less) every 4–8 hours
- checking the colour of the fluid does not change by wearing a pad.
You should avoid having sexual intercourse.
Contact your doctor or midwife and return to the hospital immediately if you have:
- a raised temperature (more than 37 °C)
- flu-like symptoms (feeling hot and shivery)
- vaginal bleeding
- if the leaking fluid becomes greenish or smelly
- abdominal pain
- if you are worried that the baby is not moving as normal.
Inducing labour or premature labour with PPROM
If you are past 34 weeks the doctor will weigh up the benefits of inducing labour before the due date to avoid the risk of infection with the disadvantages of being born premature, and may make a recommendation for early delivery.
You may need to stay in a hospital that has a neonatal unit and be monitored carefully for any sign of infection. You may also be treated with antibiotics, corticosteroids and magnesium sulphate (if you are less than 30 weeks) to help prepare your baby in case the are born prematurely.
Over 80% of women who have PPROM deliver their baby within seven days of their waters breaking.
What if there are no waters left in my womb?
Your baby’s amniotic sac has to have the right amount of amniotic fluid for the pregnancy to continue normally. If there is a break in the waters your baby will continue to produce amniotic fluid.
Before 23 weeks, the baby needs ‘waters’ to be present for their lungs to develop normally. Loss of water before this can lead to severe problems with lung development that can be critical after birth. After 23 weeks your baby does not need the amniotic fluid so much, so low levels of fluid may not be a problem in itself, but if the low levels are due to your waters breaking then there is a risk of infection.
Causes of waters breaking early (PPROM)
Intrauterine infection is present in around a third of women with PPROM. In many cases however it happens without any infection being present. The reason for these cases is unclear, however it has been linked to heavy smoking (more than 10 cigarettes a day) in pregnancy
Having more vaginal discharge during pregnancy is common, but speak to your midwife or doctor if you are unsure about any increase or change in your vaginal discharge.
- RCOG (2012) Information for you When your waters break early, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
- J David, Steer P et al (2010) High risk pregnancy, management options, Elsevier Saunders
- RCOG (2006) Preterm Prelabour Rupture of Membranes, Greentop guideline 44, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
- England MC, Benjamin A, Abenhaim HA (2013) Increased Risk of Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes at Early Gestational Ages among Maternal Cigarette Smokers. Am J Perinatol. 2013 Jan 17
ℹLast reviewed on October 5th, 2016. Next review date October 5th, 2019.
By portia (not verified) on 13 Dec 2016 - 22:37
hi am 14weeks pregnant and having a greenish discharge . is babby safe?
By Midwife @Tommys on 14 Dec 2016 - 11:38
Hi Portia, during pregnancy vaginal discharge increases due to pregnancy hormones and increased blood supply to your uterus and cervix. The discharge should be white or clear and actually prevents infection tracking up to the baby.
You don't mention if there are any other symptoms with the greenish discharge. If you have any pain when urinating, itching or an unpleasant odour these could signal an infection that needs treatment. It would be a good idea to make an appointment with your GP as if it is an infection this can be treated safely with antibiotics/antifungals to reduce the risk to your baby.
Please give us a call if you would like to talk in more detail about this on 0800 0147 800 otherwise make a GP appointment today.
By amanda (not verified) on 25 Nov 2016 - 02:15
I'm 27 weeks and 2 days and my water broke due to having an unknown std I've bin giving antibotics and the steriods for baby and me they are makin me stay at hospital the whole time untile they induce early labor at 34 weeks,I've bin here for over a week they also told me I was already dilated 2cm,now my backs killing me and my neck,contractions here and there,and the amniotic fluid is now kinda bloody pinkinsh just not bad I'd said more pink,keeps going back and forth darkgolden yellow to pinkish.....what does this mean??? Cause this hospital don't listen
By Midwife @Tommys on 25 Nov 2016 - 10:36
Hi, I am so sorry to hear you are having a difficult pregnancy and must be a worrying time for you. It is good that you are in hospital and being monitored regularly. It is difficult to say exactly what is causing the change in colour in your waters however it could be some 'show' which is bloody mucus released when there is changes to your cervix. Have you told the midwives looking after you about your pains? Be careful to monitor your baby's movements and if you have concerns then tell them straight away. Without your notes and full history it is very difficult to advise you further however when the doctors come to see you, make sure you understand everything they are saying to you, if not ask them to repeat it or explain it further. IF you would like to talk more please email us [email protected]
By tanya Lloyds (not verified) on 18 Nov 2016 - 18:37
My water broke in 7 days what is it
By Midwife @Tommys on 21 Nov 2016 - 08:47
Hi, it's a little difficult to know what it is exactly that you are asking. Please contact us on 0800 0147800 to speak to a midwife or email us privately on [email protected]
By Midwife @Tommys on 15 Nov 2016 - 09:39
I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your baby at 17+ weeks gestation. If you feel it would help to talk to one of us , a midwife is always available to chat from 9am till 5 pm Monday to Friday so feel free to give us a call on 0800 0147 800 or [email protected] Allow yourself time to grieve.
By Lavern (not verified) on 22 Nov 2016 - 22:30
Hi there,i lost my baby on November 11,2016.woke up and water was broke and doctors have to terminate pregnancy because they say no water was their for baby to survived. Am planning on getting pregnant again whats your advice?
By Midwife @Tommys on 23 Nov 2016 - 13:05
I am so sorry that you have lost your baby. It is a very personal decision as to when you try again both emotionally and physically. Good support from family and friends and self care is really key.
It would be best to wait until your bleeding has settled and you have had a normal period. It would also be good to have any blood test results back from the hospital and to make sure that you continue to take folic acid and vitamin D or a preconception multivitamin. Wishing you a future healthy pregnancy.
By Anonymous (not verified) on 1 Nov 2016 - 00:56
Hi , so oct 28 I started leaking I went to the hospital and told me that my water had broke well not all of it but I'm leaking amniotic fluids not a lot only when I walk a little I was in the hospital for 24 hours & baby seemed fine they wanted me to stay 7 weeks in the hospital for bed rest but I have a 2 year old at home and nobody can watch him so I told them if I can just come home and be in bed rest at home instead they didn't wanna let me go but they understand that I have no one to watch my toddler I'm scared so far baby is moving good I'm leaking a little not a lot & I have an appointment on nov 9 I hope everything goes well and nothing happens to my baby .. I'm scared but I have faith everything will turn out great please pray for me and my baby thank you.
By Midwife @Tommys on 1 Nov 2016 - 11:17
You do not say what gestation you are , but once your waters have broken , the hospital normally monitors you closely for signs of infection . They will do weekly bloods and monitor your baby to ensure fetal and maternal well-being and to check for signs of infection. If they are concerned they may suggest inducing you but you need to discuss this with your Consultant. Make sure you let the hospital know if your watery loss changes colour and becomes greenish or blood stained or if it starts to smell offensive . Also make sure you monitor your baby's movements and inform the hospital if they change at all
By Anonymous (not verified) on 8 Nov 2016 - 07:04
I hope and wish everything works out for you. Keep your mind occupied but try(with a toddler..!maybe impossible) Not to overdo it. Best wishes. Justin
By Anju (not verified) on 21 Oct 2016 - 20:18
I am 34 weeks pregnant doctor told me to do complete bed rest other wise I will deliver a baby soon how can I do bed rest
By Midwife @Tommys on 24 Oct 2016 - 09:13
It is a very difficult adjustment, being asked to take bed rest. Some hospitals will admit you for this on the antenatal inpatient ward, others will send you home to do this in your own home for your own comfort. Make sure you get a good supply of activities to help keep you occupied. Take care of yourself and baby!
By Asha (not verified) on 18 Oct 2016 - 04:43
my first prgnency i lost my baby in 24 weeks due to water bag leak and now i having the same problem in 27 weeks but no major leak and doctor advice to have bed rest and keep closer monitoring the baby and me i have no any pains and baby is all right doctor giving me antibotics and do necessary blood checkups do u have any advice regading same
By Midwife @Tommys on 18 Oct 2016 - 10:47
Firstly I am so sorry about your loss of your first little one at 24 weeks and completely understand why you think this is going to have the same outcome. However every pregnancy is different and as long as your Doctors are keeping a close eye on you and baby this time, hopefully things will be different. Stay positive and monitor your baby's movements closely. If you feel they are different from what you normally feel, let your doctor or midwife know immediately. Also keep an eye on the color of the water you are losing and let a midwife or doctor know if it becomes blood stained or greenish . Most of all stay positive and every week your little one is inside you the stronger he/she is getting . If you want to have a chat with one of the Tommy's Midwives , you can call us on the Pregnancy Line 0800 0147 800. We are around 9am to 5pm (Monday to Friday) and we can chat through any concerns which you may have
By Crissy (not verified) on 16 Oct 2016 - 18:37
Hi my water broke at 29 weeks and 4 days! I am now 30weeks and 4days pregnant! I stayed in the hospital for the first 2 days I've received both steroid shots and magnesium in iv. I've received my antibiotics threw my iv successfully. And since I've started my oral antibiotics I had to go home due to me having other children. But I come to the hospital daily for stress tests and daily nst tests for the babies heart rate. But I only have 1 more day of antibiotics to take and of course I'm going to continue to come to get nst tests and stress tests PLEASE GIVE ME A LITTLE ADVICE IM BEYOND NERVOUS
By Midwife @Tommys on 17 Oct 2016 - 09:56
Hi there, it is difficult to comment too much on your care over there in America. Daily CTG traces (in the U.K) or (NST testing in the U.S) is a good way to monitor fetal wellbeing.
Your Midwives and Doctors will be keeping a close eye on you and baby with these daily visits. Try not to panic, i know this is easier said than done though. It might be a good idea to discuss your full plan of care with your doctor/midwife team in full so that you know every possible plan of action.
By Anonymous (not verified) on 13 Oct 2016 - 23:34
Hi I want to know if first time water break at 18 weeks can this happen again in next pregnancy???
By Midwife @Tommys on 14 Oct 2016 - 14:59
It is very difficult to be able to give you a definite answer for your question. It depends on if any reason was found as to why your waters broke so early in pregnancy, also depends on your own medical history too. For the next pregnancy you will be under consultant care and they will make a care plan with you and you will be closely monitored. If you would like to talk further please do email us [email protected]
By Midwife @Tommys on 11 Oct 2016 - 12:08
Losing a baby is devastating and I am so sorry for your loss. You need to allow yourself time to grieve for your little one, however I can also empathize with the fact that you want to be pregnant again. You conceived before, so there is no problem with you conceiving again, you just need to give yourself time. Regarding how long to wait before trying to get pregnant after a loss, it is usually advised to wait to have your next period first , so timing wise, 5 months is fine, it may just take time emotionally too . Please feel free to contact one of the Tommy’s Midwives on 0800 0147 9800 to help you talk through this difficult time
By crystal (not verified) on 11 Oct 2016 - 02:22
my water broke at 31weeks 2 days, i immedietley went to the hospital, they gave me injections shots as well as antibiotics. my question is now i am 31 week 4 days on bedrest still in hospital , being monitored. will my baby be still born all this waiting until shes born? will I run out of fluid? im just nervous and scared, dr said at 34 weeks if i can hold off he will indouce. what are the chances of me actually going into labour on myown?
By Midwife @Tommys on 11 Oct 2016 - 16:27
The treatment you are getting is perfectly correct at the hospital you are attending. The steroid injections are to mature your baby's lungs and the iv antibiotics are to protect your baby and you from infection once your waters go at such an early gestation. They will be taking regular blood tests to ensure there is no infection in the womb as well as regular scans to check the amniotic fluid level in the womb. The fluid constantly regenerates itself but is dependent on how much you are losing on your pad. Your baby is better off in the womb as long as there is no infection there, rather than being outside until around 34 weeks. It may be an idea to ask to look around SCBU to see what a 32 week gestation baby looks like . Hopefully this would help to alleviate some of your concerns too. It can be scary, but it is less scary when you have all of the information & can ask all the questions you want before your baby is born. Good luck:)
By Anonymous (not verified) on 8 Oct 2016 - 01:31
please what should i do?
By Alycia (not verified) on 5 Oct 2016 - 06:43
Hi my eater broke At 18 Weeks I'm currently 25 Weeks and 4 days I was beening greater at the hospital but had to leave because of other problem with my other kids is this safe I had no other choice what can I do to prevent from having any danger happen to my unborn help please !!!
By Midwife @Tommys on 5 Oct 2016 - 16:10
Hi Alycia, what a stressful situation for you. Please stay in close contact with your hospital and your obstetric team so that you have a clear agreed care plan for you and your baby.
Any bleeding, signs of infection, change in your baby's movements or abdominal pain or pressure in your pelvis would mean calling the hospital and going straight in.
If you need to talk to a midwife we are here 9-5 pm weekdays on the PregnancyLine 0800 0147 800
By Ed (not verified) on 28 Oct 2016 - 05:16
Hi there my wife's water broke at 17 weeks and one day. The hospital is telling us all we can do is wait. I see your comment about 18 weeks making it to 25 weeks do you think it's possible for us to?
By Midwife @Tommys on 28 Oct 2016 - 09:39
So sorry to hear what an anxious and stressful time you and your wife must be going through. For waters to break so early in pregnancy is extremely difficult and I am afraid a lot of it is watching and waiting. It is important to try and take each day as it comes and see how far in the pregnancy you can get, there is a chance that this can be for a few weeks or longer but it is very important to have regular checks with the hospital to ensure mum and baby are well.
By Anonymous (not verified) on 15 Nov 2016 - 07:26
Hi baby passed away on the 11/11/2016.he was 17 weeks and 5 days i woke up and water broke and unfornately my pregnancy was terminated because baby could not survived without water,hope all goes well with you.
By Anonymous (not verified) on 29 Sep 2016 - 16:45
I am 29 weeks pregnant and have been having small amounts of discharge. It's not urine and smells quite distinctive, almost sweet or like laundry. Baby is moving normally although my bump is small. Is this something I need to get checked out?
By Midwife @Tommys on 29 Sep 2016 - 16:54
A small increase in vaginal discharge is normal in pregnancy. Generally it has a white or milky appearance. Any sign of blood or discharge that is brown/yellowy should be checked by a midwife.
By Anonymous (not verified) on 27 Sep 2016 - 22:05
My water broke at 33 weeks and I HV been admitted at d hospital been treated wit antibiotics incase of infection baby has been moving well but im on rest wit water leaking still antibiotics has stopped so i need best advice wat can be done to save myself n my baby
By Midwife @Tommys on 28 Sep 2016 - 11:12
Hello, are you still in hospital receiving regular care and monitoring? It is important to monitor your baby's movements, to check on the colour and smell of the water leaking and make sure that you let your midwives know if you feel feverish, tachycardic (rapid heart rate) or experience any abdominal pain.
These are signs of infection and need to be treated and may mean your baby will be born prematurely.
If you remain well and your baby continues to be active (you mention you have already been treated with antibiotics) it may be safe to wait until your labour begins spontaneously.
Please speak with you obstetric team. They will be able to make a plan with you for your remaining antenatal care and speak with someone from the neonatal team so that you feel supported.
By Nelly (not verified) on 12 Sep 2016 - 22:06
I'm 34 weeks and 3 days today and my water just broke immediately I came out of the tub. What should I do? Should I wait till morning before I go to the hospital! Is it safe for me and the baby? Mom worried.
By Midwife @Tommys on 13 Sep 2016 - 11:27
You should go straight to the labour ward at your hospital,if you have not already, as your baby is a little premature so you will need to be assessed & monitored closely at the hospital. Keep an eye on your baby's movements and your vaginal loss by wearing a pad & seek medical advice as soon as possible
By Hello (not verified) on 9 Sep 2016 - 14:22
My waters broke at 15 weeks, I have been put on antibiotics to keep infections abay. which had been going great up until I reached my 22nd week , I have now experienced bleeding . what are the chances for survival ?
By Midwife @Tommys on 9 Sep 2016 - 14:30
I am so sorry to hear what you are going through in this pregnancy and what a difficult time it must be for you. It is very difficult to answer your question, I think it is important to just take each day at a time. If you are bleeding I hope that you have been to the hospital to be reviewed, if not please call the maternity unit straight away and go to hospital to be reviewed. If you would like to talk further once you have been reviewed then please do email [email protected] or call our pregnancy line on 0800 0147 800. Take care
By Anonymous (not verified) on 7 Sep 2016 - 04:48
What is the earliest time a pregnant woman can give birth naturally? 33weeks or 37week?
By Midwife @Tommys on 8 Sep 2016 - 10:06
The normal length of pregnancy is 37-42 weeks long, a baby born during this time is referred to as term. Any time before 37 weeks the baby is premature. I hope this answers your question.
By Anonymous (not verified) on 5 Sep 2016 - 17:25
I had PPROM @ 27 wks, cervix closed. managed with antibiotics and steroid injections but sadly resulted in still birth.
SROM @ 34 wks, cervix closed. Emergency c-section to previous.
Would this happen again? Would another pregnancy be safe?
By Midwife @Tommys on 8 Sep 2016 - 10:00
I am so sorry to hear what you have been through and for the loss of your little one in your first pregnancy. It is very difficult to answer this question in brief without knowing more information and having access to your notes. I would suggest to see your GP and be referred for a preconception appointment at the hospital where your history can be reviewed and talk about having another pregnancy. You can also email us [email protected] with further information and we can discuss this in confidence.
By Anonymous (not verified) on 8 Sep 2016 - 10:08
Thank you. I didn't know such appointments existed. We had a debrief after we lost our baby girl but nothing after our second pregnancy.
By Prasanth (not verified) on 2 Sep 2016 - 04:52
What are main reason for water broken in 18week
By Midwife @Tommys on 2 Sep 2016 - 15:52
Often the main cause of waters breaking at 18 weeks of pregnancy is infection however it can be due to the cervix being weak and sometimes a cause is never known. If this has affected you then please do know you can talk to a midwife in confidence, you can email us [email protected]
By Midwife @Tommys on 1 Sep 2016 - 12:37
If your daughter's waters broke at 32 weeks, the hospital staff will be monitoring her closely with scans and regular checks of the baby's heart rate. They will do regular blood tests to ensure no infection is developing which could trigger labour and they will allow the pregnancy to continue to term as long as mum and baby are well. Usually once the waters have gone, contractions do follow but when can be unclear!!
By Anonymous (not verified) on 28 Aug 2016 - 22:25
Can head water bust by the discharge , i have in s stitched.
By Anonymous (not verified) on 27 Aug 2016 - 10:56
I am just out of hospital after treatment they told me that I would more than likely miscarriage I'm supposed to fly out on holidays next Saturday..is it safe?
By Midwife @Tommys on 1 Sep 2016 - 14:59
I am so sorry you have been ill. If your hospital has advised you that there is an increased risk of miscarriage, I would definitely advise you not to fly on Saturday. Given that you have been recently hospitalized, I am sure you can get a letter from your GP for travel insurance purposes. Remember just because there is an increased risk, it does not mean it will happen.. stay positive
By Midwife @Tommys on 25 Aug 2016 - 15:54
It sounds as if you are having the perfect management at your hospital for you and your baby.
Being given steroid injection to mature your baby's lungs and being given iv antibiotics is the correct management for you and baby at this time. Good luck with everything :) They will take good care of you both. Just listen to their plan of care for you and ask them plenty of questions. It can be scary, but it is less scary when you have all of the information - when you have had all of your questions answered.
By Midwife @Tommys on 25 Aug 2016 - 15:47
If your waters break after 37/40 gestation this can be a normal feature of early labour. A term baby is one which is 37 weeks gestation and over.
Most hospitals differ slightly in their guidance about how long to leave a lady to naturally go into labour after their waters have broken. However most of time it ranges between 12-24 hrs. After this time, you would be strongly recommended to come into the labour ward to have your labour augmented - where you would be put on a hormone drip to start giving you contractions and to start labour off. Your baby would have continuous monitoring if augmentation of labour was chosen. Your midwife and Obstetric team would go through everything in detail with you before this too.