During pregnancy, the baby develops inside a sac that is filled with fluid. The sac is called the amniotic sac. It is also sometimes called the bag of water. The fluid in the sac helps cushion and protect the baby. Itâ€™s also important for helping the baby grow normally.
Usually the sac breaks open just before or during labor. When the sac breaks it is called ruptured membranes. More commonly, when this happens a woman might say that her water broke.
What happens when the sac breaks?
When the sac breaks, the water may trickle slowly out of the birth canal (vagina) or it may suddenly gush out. It can happen before or after labor starts. Most women who are not already in labor start having contractions within 24 hours after the sac breaks.
What should I do when the sac breaks?
If you think your bag of water has broken:
Call your healthcare provider even if you have no other signs of labor.
Do not use tampons or have sex. They could bring bacteria into your uterus and cause an infection.
If this happens a few weeks or more before your due date (especially if you are less than 34 weeks pregnant), your provider may try to keep you from going into labor so the baby has more time to grow and develop before delivery. This usually means you need to stay in the hospital until you deliver. Your provider will do tests to check your baby’s health.
If you are close to your due date and labor does not start after the sac breaks, your provider may want to start labor. This is called inducing labor and means you may be given medicine to start your contractions
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Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-02-02 Last reviewed: 2014-12-11
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Bag of Water Breaks (Ruptured Membranes): References
ACOG Practice Bulletin: Premature Rupture of Membranes, Number 139, October 2013.
Cunningham, F., et al. Williams Obstetrics. 23rd ed. The Mcgraw Hill Companies, Inc. 2010.
Duff, P., et al. (2014). Preterm premature (prelabor) rupture of membranes. Retrieved 12/7/2014 from http://www.UpToDate.com.
Riley, LE, and A.R. Stark. Guidelines for Perinatal Care. 7th ed. AAP and ACOG. 2012.