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 Midwife @Tommys on 16 Jan 2019 - 15:42
Hi Sophie. Supporting others is incredibly admirable.
We are here if you need any support at this difficult time. You can get us on the helpline 0800 0147800 or on email - [email protected]
We are here Mon to Fri 9 am to 5pm.
All the best, Tommy's Midwife
By Swap (not verified) on 11 Feb 2019 - 11:28
Thanks for sharing. I have the same problem. Now at 21weeks couple days. Have you been admitted into hospital? Or taking care at home? Have they started with any antibiotics or steroids?
By Danielle (not verified) on 18 Feb 2019 - 18:52
This gave me alot of hope my bag broke at 22 weeks and 4 days i am now 23 weeks and 2 or 3 days my fluid levels going down now i was starting to wprry reading ur story has given me some encouragement
By Mama coco (not verified) on 20 Dec 2018 - 15:35
My waters broke at 36 weeks and tbh i didn't know untill my sister told me, "the couch is damped and you couldn't feel it". I replied no thinking my son had sat on it after me when he came back from the pools, it wasn't till a week later i started feeling weak and heavy especially around the mid part of my tummy. When i had my scan this week st 36 weeks 3 days the lady noticed there wasn't any water around baby the first sack had already broken. .if this is the case especially after having 3 previous c-sections and baby number 4 bring 8yrs apart from my last baby is there any chance of having a natural birth or no?.
By Midwife @Tommys on 20 Dec 2018 - 16:16
If you have had 3 previous c sections, it is unlikely that you will be advised to deliver vaginally.
By Theresa (not verified) on 13 Nov 2018 - 07:21
All of the written comments gives me HOPE. I'm currently 26 weeks pregnant, I broke my water on my 24th week. I'm still in hospital since then, monitoring blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, any signs of discharge and also infection. I don't know how long I'll be in hospital for but I'm hoping everything goes well and my baby will survive as I have high risk chances of premature labour. Ultra sound and results for my baby are very good no negative comments yet. So fingers crossed, my baby and I will be fine.
By Midwife @Tommys on 13 Nov 2018 - 16:21
Wishing you and your baby the very best.
By Missy (not verified) on 13 Dec 2018 - 03:50
How long were you able to stay pregnant after water broke?
By Midwife @Tommys on 14 Dec 2018 - 15:35
I am so sorry to hear that you are going through a difficult time in this pregnancy. At 22 weeks, it is important to try and keep your baby inside you for as long as safely possible, however this can be unknown how long this will be. It is a question of continuing to weigh up risk, as long as the baby is growing and developing and there are no signs of infection then the pregnancy will continue. If there are concerns or signs of infection then it is likely the baby will need to be born.
By Gina (not verified) on 18 Dec 2018 - 02:26
Im exactly in your boat!! Howd it go for you!!?
By Megan (not verified) on 30 Dec 2018 - 21:06
My water broke at 28 weeks I was very low in fluid so they rushed me my ambulance to a hospital about an hour away and I was on bed rest for 6 weeks. At 34 weeks they released me and said that my sons head has clogged the hole and sent me home 3 weeks after I got out I had him. It’s definitely scary but have trust in the dr.’s and keep hoping for the best. I hope all is well.
By Khocy (not verified) on 5 Feb 2019 - 05:16
I wilsh al th best
By Carribgirl29 (not verified) on 5 Nov 2018 - 07:49
My water broke at 24 weeks and I'm currently in hospital, I've been out in antibiotics and steroid shot for the baby boy's lungs. Pressure and temperature is going well. Doctor ordered a WBC and might discharge me today if everything seems to be going well. The only thing I'm worried about now is this slime like vaginal discharge (smells mostly of antibiotics and has a creamish yellow colour). Oh... baby's heart beat is going good(143-147). I'm not sure how long I'd be able to keep my baby in but does anyone know the risk of baby being ok with all the antibiotics I'm receiving? Also if the discharge is normal?
By Midwife @Tommys on 8 Nov 2018 - 14:51
Hi Carribgirl29. Thank you for your comment.
Prescribing antibiotics when your waters break prematurely is very normal practice and this is to try and prevent the development of an infection for you or your baby. The discharge that you may be experiencing could be due to thrush, which can be very common in pregnancy especially if you are on antibiotics. We would recommend that as you are in hospital, speak to the midwives or Doctors that are looking after you and explain the discharge that you are experiencing then they will be able to give you any treatment if needed. Hope this helps, take care, Tommy's Midwives x
By Nontozintle Sus... (not verified) on 23 Oct 2018 - 09:29
Good day, my water broke at 20 weeks 5 days of pregnancy. They don't know what caused it or how did it come out but they say the water which is left its to little for a baby to survive. They suggest termination.the scan says everything about the baby is fine expect the water being little, and I'm fine also. No pain,no licking ,I can feel my baby moving.im confused I don't know what to do
By Midwife @Tommys on 23 Oct 2018 - 14:30
I can't advise what you should do. This will be your decision. I would suggest that you discuss with the doctors the chance of survival of your baby and what would happen if you continued with the pregnancy. i hope that they will understand your dilemma and help you to come to your decision. Take good care of yourself
By Kayleigh (not verified) on 25 Oct 2018 - 11:32
My waters went at 16 weeks with my youngest and I was told to terminate due to little fluid, but I didn’t and although it was difficult we got to 36 weeks, he was poorly when born but he’s now 2 and doing amazing! I’m currently pregnant again and my water went at 19weeks I’m now 22 weeks so I’m getting there! Have hope and whatever decision you make I wish you all the luck in the world.. just remember premmie babies are stronger than we know x
By Saba (not verified) on 19 Feb 2019 - 17:59
What precuations you adopt after pprom.. Because i rupture my membranes at 12 weeks and have enough fluid for baby to survive
By Jocelyn (not verified) on 22 Nov 2018 - 18:18
Hi there. I am currently pregnant with twin boys. The sac for my twin A broke at 21 weeks pretty close to where you are now. The drs recommended termination to me as well however I felt that if I wasn’t going into labour and both babies were doing well I wanted to wait and see what happened. I’m currently almost 27 weeks both my babies are still doing great and I feel good no infection or any signs of labour. Of course they don’t know exactly what complications my twin A will have due to his lack of fluid but they know it can effect lung and muscle development. I have already made it to the point where if I have to deliver now both my boys have a great shot and I am so happy I didn’t listen to the doctors when they were pushing termination. Just wanted to let you know that you have more options and there is hope that your baby will be just fine :). Hope that helps
By Stephany (not verified) on 12 Oct 2018 - 10:37
I was 26 weeks pregnant with my second son when I was in a car accident which broke my water. I didn’t know at the time that was my water breaking but I had my monthly checkup the following week so I didn’t go to the doctor or hospital. At my doctors appointment they realize my water had in fact broke and the fluid was low. My doctor advised me to head straight to the hospital where I would spend the next 8 very long weeks. My doctor thought I’d deliver within 2 weeks but to everyone’s surprise my son stayed in for 8 weeks. My water work when I was 26 weeks pregnant and they did a csection when I was 33 weeks and 4 days pregnant. My son was born at 4lbs 11oz. He only spent 18 days in the nicu. He’s almost bigger then his 4 year old brother at only 2 1/2 years old. You’d never know he was born over a month early and went through what he did being he kind of had no ammenoic fluid or 2 months. So ladies don’t give up hope if your water has broken early. Our bodies amaze us everyday!! ❤️❤️
By Midwife @Tommys on 15 Oct 2018 - 16:04
Thank you Stephany for your lovely positive story. I think that our readers will find this very encouraging and if it helps just one other woman it is worth reading. We wish you and your sons all the very best. Tommy's midwives x
By Yee Yang (not verified) on 6 Nov 2018 - 05:24
Thank you for the case sharing
By Kei (not verified) on 8 Oct 2018 - 06:05
Im on 16weeks on pregnancy, when my waters broke and i felt some little pain or contractions in my stomach and back. What should i do?
By Midwife @Tommys on 8 Oct 2018 - 12:34
Hi Kei, I don't know which country you are living in but, it is really important that you see a doctor or midwife as soon as possible. If your waters have broken it is important to check for infection and to treat you if you do have any signs. Best wishes to you from Tommy's midwives.
By Darshini Saulick (not verified) on 17 Sep 2018 - 17:37
Hi my water broke at 18 week all of a sudden. Few hours earlier was having little contraction on amd off thought it was due to baby moving. When water broke rush to the hospital and by that time wascalready bleeding heavily. All happen so quick didnt realise wat was happenong. Today already 1 month since lost yhe baby. Waiting for nexy cycle to try again.
By Midwife @Tommys on 19 Sep 2018 - 13:09
I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your baby. If we can support you at all then please do be in touch, you can email us [email protected]
By Sieflop (not verified) on 13 Sep 2018 - 03:46
Hi, I'm 23 weeks pregnant and my water broke suddenly, while i travelled for work. Consulted the Obygyn within an hour who carried out an ultrasound and ran several tests for infections, and I'm hospitalised while trying to mature the baby's lungs and preventing labour. From the ultrasound, the amniotic fluid content was at boarder line, but I keep on lossing fluid while lying.
The most terrifying thing is that I'm at least 7 hours flight away from home and the Obygyn says I'm definitely going to have a preterm baby and even the number 1 hospital in this country is not equipped to receive my baby before 30 weeks. I'm confused as I'm scared not to go into labour during the flight and my insurance doesn't cover medical evacuations.
By Midwife @Tommys on 13 Sep 2018 - 12:03
We are so sorry to hear about the situation that you are in at the moment. You don't say which country you are in but it would be advisable that you speak to the Drs who are looking after you to see what your options are. It may be possible for you to speak to the baby doctors as well at the hospital who may also have some solutions. As you were away with work, can work be of any assistance to you at this time? Do they provide medical insurance or can your insurance company suggest anything in this situation. In the UK we do have hospitals that can look after babies born before 30 weeks but again depending on where you are in the world it is difficult to make any suggestions to you. Try speaking to the Drs who are looking after you as I am sure that they have had to face this situation in the past. If you need any further advice then please email the Tommy's Midwives directly on [email protected] Take Care, Tommy's Midwives x
By Sieflop (not verified) on 2 Oct 2018 - 22:55
I succeeded to travel to France within 36 hours of rupture. I'm reassured with the medical follow up. After running all possible tests, i was sent home. I have a midwife come over weekly to monitor baby's heart beat and collect samples for virginal swab culture to check for infection, also I go to hospital weekly to do echography and monitor baby's heart rate. I'm now 28 weeks pregnant and I'm praying my little man hangs in there, because he is safer here.
I had an appointment with the pedatrician, who was very excited that I have crossed the high risk primmie stage of less than 28 weeks. The approximate weight of the baby is 1.5kg which is also on the high side, for a gestational age of 28weeks.
I'll keep you updated.
By Lorna (not verified) on 30 Aug 2018 - 22:39
Positive story - I was admitted at 25 + 3 with little bleeding and later discharged when bleeding stopped. 2 days later (25+5) I woke to find more bleeding returned to hospital and by the time I was reviewed bleeding had settled so waited a few hours (was waiting for sr to discharge me) when I stood up and felt a gush and trickle down my leg. Told midwife who immediately ushered me into a room and checked pad. Then things became serious 2 midwives felt my waters had ruptured and they had bleeped the dr. They told me I needed examined as it was my 2nd baby they needed to check if my cervix had dilated. The examination showed I was 1-2 cm dilated. Long story but there were no neo-natal beds avail. So they we going to fly me hundreds of miles away but I refused (wasn’t thinking straight and I had a 2 year old at home!). They gave me steroid injections for baby and that was the start of 2 weeks in hospitals daily bloods, swabs, scans, CTG’s and bed rest. Eventually all settled and I was discharged on condition of weekly swabs, bloods and scans. I was admitted 3 further times during my pregnancy and on more than 1 occasion was planned for c-section but little man decided he was happy where he was and they let me go until 38 wks and he was born by c-section weighting 7.10lbs. I’m not going to lie it was horrendous and from 25 wks I was basically in bed rest with a toddler! There were a few occasions I just wanted him out (when we were over critical period) but thankfully it all worked out well for us but I know others are not so fortunate. Long story but hopefully it gives some of you hope, best wishes!
By Sky (not verified) on 28 Aug 2018 - 00:45
I'm currently admitted to the hospital at 26 weeks, I've had a rupture since around 18 weeks I guess. Doctors are very skeptical of the chances of my babys survival, but everything looks entirely perfect other than little to no fluid. I've had the steroid shots, and am now on my third antibiotic to prevent infection. Very active baby, very strong heart beat. All the doctors keep saying is that my baby probably wont survive and it's awful to only hear the bad news. They dont know why I ruptured or even exactly when as i hadn't even noticed i had a rupture until an ultrasound around 21 weeks. I had a miscarriage a little over a year ago and it destroyed me, now I'm worried because if I lose this baby after delivering, I might not be able to recover mentally. Any suggestions on how to stay positive when no one wants to give me even a shred of hope of taking my baby home?
By Midwife @Tommys on 29 Aug 2018 - 14:40
i am very sorry to hear what a difficult experience you've been having.
You're doctors and midwives will be trying to help support you as best they can, in preparing you for any of a number of situations. I know you feel like there is a lot of negativity there, but they have to inform you of all of the risks that are possible. But it does not mean that they will necessarily happen to you and your baby. It might be easier if you give us a call for a chat - we are here Mon to Fri 9 am to 5 pm on 0800 0147800
I have everything crossed for you. Tommy's Midwife
By Tracy (not verified) on 11 Sep 2018 - 00:03
Please find the support charity little heartbeats on Facebook. This support network has been amazing during my pregnancy and beyond with Pprom.
They also will send you a support pack.
By Amy (not verified) on 13 Sep 2018 - 06:50
Your baby has a very strong chance of surviving. Get on the phone with Mayo and try to find some other hospitals who support doing everything they can to bring your baby home. Not all doctors have the same optimism as others who show 26 weeks is a VERY viable age and baby can come home healthy.
By Ashley (not verified) on 2 Oct 2018 - 18:17
Hi Sky. I’m currently admitted in the hospital. Have been here since my waters broke at 23 weeks. I am currently going on 29 weeks. They are very hopeful that baby will be fine. There are definitely risks that come with having a preterm baby, or having a baby that had low fluid. But, I really feel they should be preparing you for ALL outcomes. The NICU where I am come every week to update me on what a baby at that week would need, as far as support. I just wanted to encourage you to keep your head up. I wish you all the best.
By Charl (not verified) on 4 Oct 2018 - 13:13
Hi,if it’s any help I had a tear at 20 weeks and was told my baby wouldn’t survive.
I was determined to keep him and was put on strict bed rest.I managed to re-build my fluid only to start leaking again at 30 weeks.
At this point I was admitted to hospital for a month to be monitored.The dr wanted a minimum of 34 weeks.I made it to 36 weeks and then there was infection and my boy was delivered by c-section.
He is now a healthy 9 year old and thriving.
I am hoping my story gives someone hope and strength as I know how anxious the days can be
By Midwife @Tommys on 8 Oct 2018 - 16:45
Thank you Charl,
This is a truly inspiring message. Thank you for taking the time to post and we wish your and your 9 year old son all the best for the future. Take care.
By Alizeh Korimbux (not verified) on 26 Oct 2018 - 15:35
Hi everyone, my water broke when I was 20 weeks pregnant. I was at home, I felt a gush and when I went I went to the bathroom there was some clear liquid on my sanitary pad. I just thought it was just a discharge and decided to just rest. During the night I felt the gush again while lying down. I woke up in a panic and googled it. I read that it was normal so I didn't worry. I only started to worry when it happened again in the morning. I went to the hospital to have it checked out and they confirmed that my water was broken. The doctor advised me to have a termination. I was devastated. I didn't want to to terminate my pregnancy. They kept me in for a coupe of days to monitor baby and me. I went home after 2 days and had complete bed rest and had to go to the hospital twice a week to check for infection. From 20weeks to 30 weeks I leaked on and off. I would leak mostly at night. I would be worried everyday. I prayed a lot while I was in bed. And God has answered my prayer. I little boy was born at 30weeks and 3 days by an emergency c section. He was very poorly when he was born but he was doing well with all the treatment he was getting. He is now big 10 months old baba with a very good health. So don't lose hope whoever is going through the same situation. Keep praying and everything will be fine. Sorry if I've bored you all with my long story but I thought my story will give hopes to a lot of mums out there. Good luck!
By Midwife @Tommys on 29 Oct 2018 - 12:02
Thank you for sharing your story with everyone :)
By Adriennne (not verified) on 16 Nov 2018 - 21:52
Alizeh, your story gives me hope for my daughter. Her water broke at 20 weeks 4 days. Three doctors advised that she terminate the pregnancy. My daughter opted to wait it out. It happened this past Tuesday. We've past the 72 hour point of triggered labor, although she did have some mild cramping last night. No cramping today and the baby was moving around a bit. Some water came out last night and this morning. Not much though. I told my daughter to continue drinking plenty of fluids which will help the baby produce amniotic fluid. I told her to talk to her baby and express love so that the baby fights to stay alive. We pray every day asking God for mercy, grace, no infection, and good health for mother and baby. I know I am supposed to trust God, and I do! But, as a mother I am on pins and needles watching my daughter cling on to the little life inside her, as this is her first child. I am very optimistic and hopeful. Today, my daughter is 21 weeks. I feel like my grand baby is going to make it.
Thanks for posting your story. It is really encouraging to read that someone else was in the same situation and made it! Best of blessing to you and your baby.
By Sivania (not verified) on 17 Aug 2018 - 00:37
My water Broke Tuesday I am 28 weeks pregnant there giving me antibiotics n steroids shots for baby lungs anyone been thru this?
By Midwife @Tommys on 17 Aug 2018 - 10:31
I am so sorry to hear about your waters breaking early - I hope you are getting lots of care and support.
By Steph (not verified) on 18 Aug 2018 - 11:48
Sorry to hear about your waters breaking early. The exact same thing has happened to me. My waters broke about 5pm ok Thurs 16 Aug. I was then 29+5. I was told to come into hospital where they confirmed my waters had broken and ever since I’ve been on drips and had the 2 steroid injections in my leg (drip for babies brain and steroids for babies lungs) I’ve also been taking a course of antibiotics to prevent an infection (still unsure if I have one) I’ve been told that I won’t be leaving hospital until my little girl is born. The midwife told me there’s been quite a few cases of waters breaking early at the minute and they are unsure why. I was also told 28+ there’s a 90% of everything being fine so try not to worry you are in the best hands. They will do everything they can for your baby.
By Midwife @Tommys on 20 Aug 2018 - 15:05
Hi Steph, I hope you have found our website useful. At nearly 30 weeks there is an excellent chance that your baby will do very well. Thank you for supporting the previous comment, it is helpful for pregnant women everywhere to know they are not alone and have reassuring comments.
Take good care of yourself, Tommy's midwives
By Mesha (not verified) on 18 Aug 2018 - 17:09
Hi , my water broke at 17 weeks. I’m now 30 weeks. They’ve given steroid shots and antibiotics while in the hospital..And everything seems to be okay as of now.Just keep faith ❤️
By Midwife @Tommys on 20 Aug 2018 - 15:26
Hi Mesha, As with the previous comment, thank you for taking the time to support others and we wish you all the best for a healthy happy baby now. Take care x
By Sue (not verified) on 29 Aug 2018 - 21:32
Can i please ask how long you had to stay in the hospital after your water broke.
All the best
By Marisa (not verified) on 2 Oct 2018 - 03:06
I am currently 21wks pregnant my water broke at 19wks I am on bedrest at home until 24wks praying we make it. Can you tell me when they gave you steroids how many weeks you were? They won’t give them to me now .
By Maloni (not verified) on 23 Aug 2018 - 12:55
Yes I am going through this right now at 26 weeks baby is fine so am I they want to keep me Pregnant for 34 weeks ideally but we'll see how everything goes