What Happens if Your Water Breaks Without Contractions?

Premature Rupture of Membranes at Term (PROM)

Pregnant woman discussing issues with her doctor.
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Sometimes, your water breaks and yet contractions do not immediately follow. This may concern you, but there are many things that you can try to help get labor going once your water has broken, including:

  • You can wait.
    Sometimes it will take a few hours for contractions to kick into gear. As long as you and your practitioner are fine with it, waiting for awhile may be appropriate assuming that you and baby are doing well. This generally means that nothing goes into your vagina, you don't get into a tub of water, you aren't running a fever, there is no foul odor and there is no discolored fluid. One study reported that waiting up to 24 hours, known as expectant management, didn't increase the risk of complications, as long as mom and baby didn't have an infection.
  • You can try nipple stimulation.
    Using your hands or a breast pump, you can stimulate your nipples. This helps produce oxytocin, which can help jump start contractions. If you don't have a breast pump, you can usually get one from a hospital lactation consultant or you can use manual stimulation in the absence of a pump. This has been shown to work really well for many mothers. 
  • You can try activity.
    Walking around can sometimes encourage labor to start. A walk around the house or even outside might help you. If it is cold outside, consider walking around in some indoor spot. 24 hour shopping centers or stores work really well, particularly late at night. It can also help shield you from the extreme heat or cold and help you stay comfortable. 
  • Acupressure may be helpful.
    This involves using pressure on certain spots on your body to help try to stimulate labor. One such point is where the hard and soft palate meet in the roof of your mouth. Pressing here, much like thumb sucking, may help stimulate contractions by helping your body to produce it's own oxytocin.

    When your water breaks you should call your doctor or midwife to discuss which options are safe for you and your baby. Not everyone will respond to all of these suggestions and some may not be safe for you or your baby given your medical history. You will also want to discuss with your practitioner when the best time is for you to either go to the hospital or their office, or if you are planning a home birth, when they would come to you to check on you and baby. Not all women and babies respond well to all of these alternatives.

    Duff, P: Premature rupture of the membranes at term. N Engl J Med 334:1053, 1996.

    Kavanagh J, Kelly AJ, Thomas J. Breast stimulation for cervical ripening and induction of labour. Cochrane Library. 20 July 2005.

    Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. Gabbe, S, Niebyl, J, Simpson, JL. Fifth Edition, 2007.

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