While preparing for the labor and delivery journey, you are likely consuming a lot of information online, reading birth stories, listening to podcasts, or taking a birth course. When learning about water breaking and amniotic fluid, you may come across the term ‘dry birth.’ Now the question, ‘What is a dry birth?’ is added to your growing list of things to learn about during pregnancy!
In recent years, the term ‘dry birth’ has been determined to be a myth but there are still many misconceptions regarding amniotic fluid out there! We’re here to help you understand the purpose of amniotic fluid and empower you to know what to do when your water breaks at the end of your full-term pregnancy.
- Why is amniotic fluid important?
- What is a dry birth?
- How do I know if my water has broken?
- What do I do when my water breaks?
Table of Contents
Why is Amniotic Fluid Important?
Before discussing the concept of a dry birth, we need to understand the significance of amniotic fluid during pregnancy. This clear, slightly yellowish liquid is a vital component of the amniotic sac, surrounding and protecting your growing baby. The amniotic fluid serves several critical functions:
1. Cushioning and Protection
One of the primary functions of amniotic fluid is to act as a cushion that protects the baby throughout the entire pregnancy journey. It creates a safe and cushioned environment that shields the growing baby from external pressure, injury, and sudden movements. As your baby grows, this protective barrier becomes increasingly important. It absorbs shocks and impacts, ensuring that the delicate and rapidly developing organs and body structures of the baby remain safe and unharmed.
2. Temperature Regulation
Amniotic fluid also serves as a thermostat, helping to regulate your baby’s body temperature. The temperature in the womb needs to remain stable and comfortable for the baby. By keeping the baby at an optimal temperature, amniotic fluid ensures that metabolic processes occur efficiently and that your baby remains healthy while in the womb.
3. Lung Development
Amniotic fluid plays a significant role in a baby’s lung development. As your baby practices breathing in the womb, they swallow and exhale small amounts of amniotic fluid. The more the baby practices “breathing” by moving amniotic fluid in and out of the lungs, the more prepared they are for breathing air after birth.
4. Nutrition and Waste Removal
Amniotic fluid isn’t just a passive environment; it’s an active participant in your baby’s nutrition and waste removal system. As the baby swallows the amniotic fluid, they ingest essential nutrients from it which helps support their growth and development. Conversely, as part of their natural bodily functions, the baby expels waste materials, including urine, into the amniotic fluid. This might seem weird, but it’s an important process for maintaining a healthy environment for the baby. The amniotic fluid then functions as a carrier, preventing the build-up of waste products and ensuring that the composition of the fluid remains balanced for a perfect environment for the baby to develop.
5. Supporting Movement and Development
Inside the womb, your baby is constantly moving and exploring their environment. Amniotic fluid provides the necessary buoyancy for these movements. It allows your baby to stretch, kick, and turn, which are essential for the development of muscles and bones. Furthermore, these movements play a role in maintaining the flexibility of your baby’s joints.
6. Acting as a Barrier to Infection
Amniotic fluid also serves as a protective barrier against infections due to its antibacterial properties. It creates a sealed environment that helps shield the baby from external pathogens. While it’s not impenetrable, amniotic fluid provides an additional layer of defense against potential infection.
What is a Dry Birth?
The term “dry birth” is somewhat misleading, as it implies that once the amniotic sac ruptures, there’s a risk of running out of amniotic fluid, which could be harmful to the baby. In reality, the human body continuously produces amniotic fluid even after membranes have ruptured. Therefore, the belief of running out of amniotic fluid after the rupture of membranes at term is not accurate.
How Will I Know If My Water Has Broken?
You may hear from other moms or read online that you’ll “just know” when your water breaks but it’s not always obvious. Your waters can break before you even start having contractions or it can break while you are in active labor or pushing the baby out! Some common signs of water breaking include:
A Sudden Gush of Fluid
A noticeable and significant release of fluid from the vagina is often a clear indicator. This is usually what is depicted in the movies when a pregnant woman’s water breaks!
A continuous, slow trickle of fluid, which can be mistaken for urine leakage. Some women may not know if they are leaking amniotic fluid or urine. Your healthcare provider can test the fluid to determine if it is amniotic fluid or not. You can also use smell to determine what the fluid is. Amniotic fluid can smell sweet or be odorless.
A Change in Sensation
Some women report feeling a distinct “pop” or “bursting” sensation when their water breaks. With my first child, I was at my doctor’s office and I remember feeling a distinct “pop” followed by a small gush of liquid! I knew right away it was my waters breaking due to the “pop” sensation. Fluid continued to trickle out the rest of the day and then real contractions started about 12 hours later.
Amniotic Fluid Color
If you think your water broke, wear a pad and pay attention to the color of the fluid on the pad. Amniotic fluid is typically clear, but it can be slightly yellowish or red-tinged. If the fluid is green or brown, it might indicate meconium (the baby’s first stool) in the fluid, which requires immediate attention.
If you suspect that your water has broken, consult with your healthcare provider for confirmation and guidance.
What Do I Do If My Water Breaks?
When your water breaks, there are certain steps you can take to ensure the safety of both you and your baby:
Contact Your Healthcare Provider
Notify your healthcare provider or midwife immediately to report the rupture of membranes and receive specific guidance for your situation. The instructions from your healthcare provider will vary depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy and whether or not contractions have started.
Pay attention to the onset and frequency of contractions. If labor doesn’t begin on its own, your healthcare provider will discuss potential induction options. There are a few things you can do at home to help get labor going without needing a medical induction. You can try curb walking (learn about it here), nipple stimulation, or bouncing on a birth ball!
Keep Hydrated and Rest
Staying hydrated is important as it will help your body produce more amniotic fluid. Resting can also be beneficial, as it conserves your energy for the upcoming labor.
How Can I Decrease Risks?
While term pregnancies are less likely to encounter complications related to ruptured membranes, it’s important to be aware of potential risks and take measures to reduce them:
As a general rule, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends waiting no more than 24 hours before medically inducing labor after a mother’s water breaks if labor does not start on its own. However, the time a pregnant person can safely go between their water breaking and giving birth varies from case to case which is why it’s important to consult with your provider to receive personalized guidance (Source). Induction is recommended for premature rupture of membranes (PROM) to reduce the risk of infection and ensure the well-being of your baby. Don’t worry, you won’t have a ‘dry birth’ if labor doesn’t start soon after your water breaks because your body will continue to produce amniotic fluid and your baby will continue to urinate while in the womb which also produces more fluid.
The risk of infection increases after the amniotic sac ruptures. To decrease this risk, avoid inserting anything into the vagina (e.g., intercourse or internal exams) and practice good hygiene.
If the amniotic fluid is meconium-stained, it’s essential to monitor the baby’s heart rate closely during labor and be prepared for potential neonatal interventions once the baby is born.
Amniotic fluid is an amazing substance with many critical jobs and it can tell us a lot about a baby’s well-being. The human body is incredibly adaptable and continuously produces amniotic fluid, so the risk of running out of fluid after the rupture of membranes at term is minimal, making the idea of a ‘dry birth’ a myth. However, it’s important to pay attention to your body, communicate with your healthcare provider if you think your water has broken, and follow their instructions to ensure a safe and healthy delivery for you and your baby. Whether you have a dramatic burst of fluid while grocery shopping or a small trickle that makes you question if you are leaking urine, get excited because your wild journey of bringing your baby into the world is beginning! You can do this!!
Kayla is a mother of two young children. She is married to her high school sweetheart who is a firefighter, paramedic, and nurse. Her professional background is in social work, advocacy, and non-profits. She is passionate about empowering and encouraging mothers to make informed decisions about their pregnancy, birth, and motherhood journey.