What Causes Your Water to Break When You're Pregnant

Updated on April 20, 2016

Baby Ready to Enter the World

My first child was born on her due date, which is a rare occurrence as only about 5% of babies share this punctuality. It was exactly twelve o'clock noon when my water broke, and my daughter announced her desire to enter this world. Somehow I knew to stay home from work that day - sort of a sixth sense. The slow trickle of amniotic fluid gave me time to call everyone, pack my bags, and get to the hospital in plenty of time before contractions even started.

We always smile back at my daughter's precise timing which turned out to be a foreshadowing of her "unbending" personality. But was it really her strong will that caused my water to break, or something more scientific? There are several factors that may cause a pregnant woman's water to break.

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Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM) Not Very Common

Only about 10% of pregnant women experience the premature rupture of membranes (PROM), which would be sometime within 24 hours before serious labor begins at 37-42 weeks. (This should not be confused with preterm premature rupture, which will be discussed later.) Contrary to amusing movie portrayals, most of these women endure only a small trickle of clear or yellowish amniotic fluid, as opposed to a huge gush onto the middle of the supermarket floor. So, there really is no need to carry a jar of pickles around!

In the case of PROM, the membranes tear or burst as a woman's body prepares for labor. According to WhattoExpect.com, the mysterious chemical chain reaction that causes labor to begin has been linked to brain signals from the fetus. So, yes, maybe it was my daughter controlling the bridge that day! When labor starts, the baby's position will shift downward, causing additional pressure inside the amniotic sac. The increased pressure may cause the sac to pop like a balloon or, as in most cases, to tear just a bit, allowing for the leak or trickle. In either situation, if you suspect that your water has broken, call your doctor. Once the safety of the amniotic sac has been breached, there is opportunity for infection.

Water Breaking During Labor

In most pregnancies, the membranes are ruptured naturally during labor, once you are in the hospital. As contractions progress, and the baby moves towards the birth canal, the amniotic sac is pressured to break. In most cases, the contractions will rupture the sac, and you will just feel a warm gush of water.

If you are having an induced labor, it is likely that your doctor will artificially break the membrane, using an amniotic hook. Don't worry, though - it does not hurt. With my second child, labor was induced, and there was no pain associated with the thin plastic hook used to break the membranes. The process actually helped my labor progress.

Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes (PPROM)

An early rupturing of the membranes (before 37 weeks) is the main cause of one out of four premature births. Once the amniotic sac breaks, there is a risk of infection, and labor cannot be delayed for long. The Mayo Clinic and other doctors have identified the following risk factors and possible causes for the complication of preterm premature rupture of membranes, or PPROM.

  • prior history of PPROM
  • genital tract infection
  • vaginal bleeding during more than one trimester
  • smoking
  • weak or injured cervix
  • deficiencies in copper, zinc, or Vitamin C
  • sexual intercourse
  • decreased collagen in the tissues
  • over-exercise
  • multiples (twins or more)
  • abnormal baby presentation, for example, breech

Pregnancies Too Close Together May Cause Water to Break Early

The American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology published a report in 2010 that showed an increased risk of PPROM for women who became pregnant again soon after childbirth. This risk was reported highest for black women who became pregnant three to six months after childbirth. Women who waited at least 18 months were less likely to have the complication. The report concluded that a woman's body needs adequate time for full recovery between births.


When Will My Water Break?

Most women do not experience the complications of PROM or PPROM. You can benefit, however, by being informed of the risks and causes, and by following general instructions from your obstetrician. If your water does break early or unexpectedly, stay calm and contact your doctor. On the flip side, if your labor begins, but your water does not break, don't panic. In most cases, a woman's water does not break until she is well into real labor. By that time, hopefully, you will already be at the hospital or in the presence of the appropriate health care provider.


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    • profile image

      Christine 2 months ago

      I'm four months pregnant my water is breaking

    • profile image

      Rebecca 3 months ago

      I am 36+2 with baby #2 and think I may have a slow leak... waiting to go to doc.

      With baby #1 I was post term... water broke like it does in the movies - but at least I was at home. It was a HUGE gush, that just continued for hours. I was told toward the end I had a lot of amniotic fluid, so that is probably why it continued. They changed my soaked bed sheets at the hospital 3-4 times before telling me no more... and then used the hook ON TOP of all of this to help the rest come out. It was insane - never ending fluid. I am so worried it will happen again like that (at work!), but on the other hand, at least I never had to question if it broke or not! :)

    • profile image

      Takia Smith 4 months ago

      On my 5th pregnancy . My water has never broken on its own . It was always done at the hospital. For whatever reason Ive never experienced that.

    • profile image

      Cc 4 months ago

      Im 38 weeks and water has not broken yet at 3cm so ready for this life changing experience. Hurting but patient. Due date is September 10th.

    • profile image

      MrsH 3 years ago

      My water broke at 29wks with baby #3. We are now having a surprise baby #4 and I constantly wonder as the days tick closer if it will happen again. I feel like any info on what the odds are or preventative maintenance are hard to find. I still have no idea why it happened with baby#3. Just waiting! Were 23wks now!

    • profile image

      Jen 3 years ago

      Im 38 weeks and am hoping my water breaks soon. Not to rush him out or anything but because our son is already over 10 pounds. Dr apt tommorrow hopefully things go good

    • profile image

      Deb Welch 4 years ago

      Good Work. Didn't know anything about water breaki ng. My daughter was late by 2 1/2 wks. - she was too large for the birth canal - the doctor must have broke the water - I was in labor for 12 hours with her. Useful and Interesting.

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Hi, shana

      My advice is to wait. Your baby will come when he or she is ready, and your body will let you know. My son was induced at 38 weeks, and I regret that decision. You are almost there!

    • profile image

      shana 5 years ago

      How can i break my water i am 38 weeks i can't go anywhere and i want to do it know

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Thanks, theclevercat. Yes, still a little scary, but at least the odds are against complications.

      Thanks, Teresa. Three boys! They are a different breed, aren't they?

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Been there done that three times. Only with my third boy did my water break before hard labour. Well written and informative article.

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Wow! I had no idea about this. If I was looking for information about the water breaking, this would be where I would stop. It's still pretty scary, but much less so.

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Thanks, Alissa. I do remember the water breaking being exciting, especially since it was my first child, but I can see how inconvenient and embarrassing it could be as well!

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Thanks, cclitgirl. Yes, sometimes the unknown is more scary than the truth.

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Thanks, teaches12345. The hook sounds terrible doesn't it? Even a picture of it doesn't help one feel better, but hopefully our personal accounts will!

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Thanks for reading, Debby. It really is a phenomena, isn't it?

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      We were against the odds on this one, weren't we? I wonder how similar our two are. Mine is very high-maintenance, but also very interesting, to say the least!

    • alissaroberts profile image

      Alissa Roberts 5 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Very useful and interesting hub! I never got to experience my water breaking naturally because both of my pregnancies were induced. This one will be most helpful to other moms out there. Great job - voted up!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      Very informative hub. It also can help first-time moms to put their anxieties more at ease. Voted up.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      This is a great article for all first time moms who have concerns. My doctor had to use the hook, and you are right, there was no pain. Very informative hub.

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 5 years ago

      Interesting notes on this birthing phenomena. Thanks so much. Debby

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Great information. My water broke with my son on his due date as well (July 4th). I had to smile at your comment about your daughter's unbending personality because my son is the same way, and a firecracker to boot! I'm passing this along to my sister in law who is waiting for the arrival of her first child. She was due four days ago, maybe reading this will help that stubborn little stinker come out! :)

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      K9keystrokes - I was surprised, too, at the statistics, finding myself in only 10% for PROM. Not sure what the statistic is for those 10% - how many in the "safety" of their own homes, and how many at the checkout in Target! Maybe my poll will give some interesting results.

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 5 years ago from Northern, California

      I'm betting this information will help pregnant women (and couples)better understand the water breaking process. I find the percentages surrounding when and where this occurs fascinating, as most notably one's water would break in very inconvenient locations(if you believe what is shown on TV). ;)


    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Thanks, Brittanytodd! It is a weird experience to think about - Where will I be when my water breaks??? But, chances are, it won't splash out in some crazy place outside of a hospital or your home. And if it does, well, it might make an interesting story!

    • brittanytodd profile image

      Brittany Kennedy 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

      This is so useful! I am not pregnant or have had any children (yet), but this is one of the things I never understood. Great work! Voted up, shared, etc.

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Thank you, dinkan53! I wanted to create an easy-to-read Hub that discussed these issues in plain terms, as opposed to some of the academic journals you have to dig through! Thanks for voting and sharing.

    • dinkan53 profile image

      dinkan53 5 years ago from India

      Very useful one for the couples waiting for their junior to come out. This hub will clear the doubts of them the break of water from the membrane. Sharing with my bookmarking sites and rated as useful.