Amniotic fluid is the warm fluid that protects and supports your baby as it grows in the womb. This important fluid contains:
- immune system cells
- your baby's urine
At its highest level, the amniotic fluid in the belly is about 1 liter. After 36 weeks of pregnancy, fluid levels begin to decline as your body prepares for childbirth.
When the doctor performs ultrasounds before delivery, they estimate the amount of amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby. It is possible that the fluid may start leaking at some point.
If too much liquid starts leaking, this is known as oligohydramnios. Fluid can also leak due to the rupture of the amniotic sac. This is known as rupture of the membranes.
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if the fluid you're leaking is amniotic fluid. Here is a look at the symptoms.
In this article
- Leakage of amniotic fluid: symptoms
- Loss of amniotic fluid: the risks
- What happens when the waters break?
Read also: Amniotic fluid
Leakage of amniotic fluid: symptoms
Think of your amniotic sac like a water balloon. While it is possible to rupture the water balloon, causing a strong jet of fluid (known as water rupture), it is also possible for a small hole to develop in the pouch. This can result in a slow loss of amniotic fluid.
When you are pregnant, you may feel like everything is leaking - your bladder fills up faster and you may lose urine. Your vaginal tissues can also produce extra fluids to help your baby pass more easily. So it can be difficult to determine whether the fluid is urine, amniotic fluid, or vaginal fluid.
Amniotic fluid can have some of the following qualities:
- clear, mottled with white and / or stained with mucus or blood
- no smell
- often saturates your underwear
- Typically, the urine will have an odor. Vaginal fluid is usually white or yellow in color.
Another way you can try to determine if the fluid is amniotic fluid is to empty your bladder first. Place a sanitary pad or panty liner in your underwear and examine the fluid on the sanitary napkin after 30 minutes. If the liquid is yellow in color, it is likely urine. If not, the fluid could be amniotic fluid.
Another option is to wear a sanitary napkin or panty liner and focus on holding the pelvic floor muscles, as if trying to stop the flow of urine. If you do this and don't see any fluid, the fluid you see is probably urine.
Loss of amniotic fluid: the risks
Leaking amniotic fluid can be dangerous for you and your baby at any time during pregnancy. While you may naturally lose a small amount of fluid, losing too much of it can be harmful.
Leaking amniotic fluid during the first and / or second trimester can cause complications, including:
- birth defects
- premature birth
During the third trimester, low amniotic fluid levels can cause:
- difficulties during labor, such as compression of the umbilical cord, which can affect the baby's ability to get oxygen
- increased risk of caesarean delivery
- slowed growth
When to call the doctor?
Call your doctor right away if the liquid appears green or brownish yellow. This may indicate that your baby has had a bowel movement in the womb, which can cause respiratory complications at birth.
You should also call your doctor if you think your membranes may have ruptured, also known as a "water rupture".
What happens when the waters break?
If your waters naturally break, you may hear a slow trickle or sudden rush of water that you can't control. Amniotic fluid is clear and pale. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish amniotic fluid from urine. When your waters break, the water may be a little stained with blood.
Tell your midwife immediately if:
- the waters smell bad or are colored
- you are losing blood: this could mean that you and your baby need urgent care.
If your waters break before labor begins, call your midwife. Use a sanitary napkin so your midwife can check the color of the water.
Article sources: NHS; Healthline; Mayoclinic
- Amniotic fluid
- too little amniotic fluid
- amniotic fluid in pregnancy
- too much amniotic fluid
- breaking of the waters