What Exactly Does It Mean For Your Water To Break?

In every movie I've ever seen about a woman giving birth, there's always a dramatic scene where her water breaks (more like explodes). She panics, someone acts like an idiot while trying to get her into a cab, and then 20 minutes later, she has a beautiful 3 month old on her chest with a full face of make-up. So real, right? When it comes to depictions of a woman's water breaking, they don't always get it right. But what exactly does it mean for your water to break?

"The fetus develops inside a fluid-filled set of membranes commonly known as the amniotic sac," Christine Strain, doula and member of the Georgia Birth Network tells Romper. "The sac is actually made up of two membranes, the amnion and the chorion. In the first part of pregnancy, the amniotic fluid is made of water from the mother's body. After the baby's kidneys develop, the fluid is mostly made up of the baby's urine."

When those membranes break and the amniotic fluid releases? Strain says that it is commonly referred to as your water breaking.

Strain notes that, usually, your water breaking happens at the beginning of labor or during the process of labor, but sometimes those membranes rupture and labor doesn't begin.

According to the Mayo Clinic, your water breaking could consist of wetness in your vagina, an intermittent or constant leaking of watery fluid (usually in small amounts) from your vagina, or a gush of clear or pale yellow fluid that's usually more obvious. (And more like a Hollywood movie.)

No matter how it breaks or how your amniotic fluid releases, Strain says that there's a risk of infection once the amniotic sac has ruptured. "If the baby is full term, induction of labor may be decided on as early as a few hours after the water breaks, up to a couple of days after," she says. "If the baby is preterm, care providers and the family must carefully weigh the benefits of continuing gestation versus the risk of infection. The mother will be carefully monitored in the hospital, until either induction is decided upon or labor begins on its own."

So OK. Maybe it's more like the movies than you thought. But here's exactly what your water breaking means — your baby's most likely on their way. With that risk of infection, your doctor probably won't want you to go 24 hours past your water breaking without some progress on labor or antibiotics, noted Parents. No matter how far along you are, once that water breaks, it's time to contact your doctor, even if labor takes a day or two to get fully underway.