In Hollywood, nearly every pregnant woman goes into labor with her water breaking, usually somewhere hilariously embarrassing like aisle 6 of the grocery store. In reality, only 8-10 percent of women's water break as the first sign of labor. Generally for those women, contractions will begin naturally in the following 12 to 24 hours. But for some of the women in that group, their water breaks without any contractions in the first 24 hours. Because prolonged ruptured membranes increase the possibility of infection, it's good to keep in mind a few important considerations:
Call your care provider. Let your care provider know that your water has broken -- she will want to know the time, amount, color, and odor (TACO). Different care providers have different guidelines for what to do once your water has broken. Some are comfortable with waiting on labor to begin up to 48 hours after your water has broken. They may ask that you come in the office to verify that your water has broken (by testing the fluid in your vagina), and to be monitored periodically for your and baby's health.
If induction is suggested, learn your options. If induction is suggested after your water has broken, find out about all of your options for induction. How long can you safely wait at home for contractions to begin? How long can you wait if you come in the office periodically to be monitored? Can you try natural induction methods (nipple stimulation, for example)? What are the different, safest ways you can be induced with medication at the hospital?
Limit the number of vaginal exams. If your water has broken, the possibility of infection increases. With each vaginal exam, bacteria is introduced, further increasing the risk of infection. It's important to limit the amount of vaginal exams you have during labor once your membranes are ruptured.
Have you experienced a labor that began with your water breaking as the first sign? Tell us about it in the comments!