Will your water break during labor?
April 13, 2022
If you are like me, the end of your pregnancy is full of suspense as you anxiously watch for any sign that your body is going into labor. The most common signs you've probably heard of are losing your mucous plug, also known as the "bloody show," and your water breaking.
I remember asking my doctor about how I'll know if I'm going into labor, and he told me to watch for my water breaking. But earlier that week I had received an email from one of those pregnancy tracking sites that said water-breaking only happened before labor in 15 percent of women, and that although Hollywood made it seem like such a huge ordeal with a gushing of what looked like a gallon of water, and the woman screaming and immediately going into active labor, it could be 12 or more hours before labor really even kicks in. He told me it's different for many women, it may be a trickle or a gush or feel like I peed my pants, but that's what I should be watching out for.
I asked him about losing my mucous plug because one of my weekly emails also discussed that and said it was a sign of the cervix ripening (I hate that term) and how to identify it. The email made it seem more common than having your water break. Well, my doctor told me that was mostly a myth and wasn't even mentioned in any of his textbooks in medical school. What?!
"Okay, so listen to my doctor and ignore those weekly emails," I thought, and started being paranoid about my water breaking again.
The next week I returned for another appointment and the nurse who brought me back to the room asked me, "so, have you lost your mucous plug yet?" I replied, "Ugh, what?! The doctor told me last week that it was a myth and to watch for my water breaking!"
Guess what her reply was?
"Hmmmm-mmmm, well I'd say most women I've seen don't ever know if their water broke, but usually you'll notice a change in your discharge and that's how you know you're close." Then she asked me some not-so-pretty questions about discharge and told me to watch for any changes.
So you can probably imagine that I felt a bit conflicted.
And as it turned out, I went into labor WITHOUT my water breaking and WITHOUT losing my mucus plug two days before my due date. Have you ever asked anyone how you'll know labor is starting and they told you, "you'll just know?" I hate to say it, but they're right. Mine started with very strong, painful contractions that felt nothing like Braxton Hicks or the contractions I had from my irritated uterus. And I knew they were real.
Once I was dilated to a 5 THEN the doctor broke my water. I never saw any discoloration or increase in discharge.
So don't lose sleep over your water breaking or losing your mucous plug. Don't assume that if those things don't happen you're not close to labor, either. For some women, those events do take place and that's how they know they're in labor. But it can be really stressful to assume those things will happen and constantly wonder when they will. Every woman's body is different. Maybe one or the other or both will happen to you, but maybe neither of them will. Ask any questions and express any concerns you have with your doctor, but do your best to relax and let your body prepare for delivery in its own way.
If you've had a baby, did you experience either of these signs? How did you know you were in labor? Share your story in the comments!