Amniotic fluid is the watery liquid that surrounds the baby / fetus within the uterus. It allows the baby / fetus to move about freely without the hindrance caused by the uterus walls being too tight around it. At the same time, this fluid also provides a cushioning within the uterus and gives the fetus buoyancy.
This amniotic fluid begins to fill up the amniotic sac from about 2 weeks of fertilization. Another 10 weeks later, the fluid contains different proteins, carbohydrates, electrolytes, lipids and even urea, which provide nutrition to the fetus. Towards the later stages of pregnancy, the fluid begins to contain fetal urine. It has also been recently discovered that the amniotic fluid also contains non-embryonic stem cells. In normal cases, leaking of amniotic fluid during pregnancy is one of the prominent signs of labor.
Leaking of Amniotic Fluid
Normally, when the pregnancy completes the full term, the membranes of the amniotic sac burst and the amniotic fluid begins to leak out via the vagina. This is called ‘Spontaneous Rupture Of Membranes’ or SROM. In common parlance, this is also termed as the time when a woman’s ‘water breaks’. However, there are times, when the amniotic sac may develop a tear or may rupture causing the amniotic fluid to leak before term. If this occurs 37 – 38 weeks before term, it is referred to as ‘Premature Rupture Of Membrane’ or PROM. When either of these cases occur, the fluid may just gush out or may just leak out in a continuous trickle like a discharge.
When the premature rupture of amniotic sac occurs, it is necessary to determine the cause. Normally, the leaking is caused by a bacterial infection or by a defect in the structure of the amniotic sac or the uterus or the cervix.
This leakage may lead to further complications for the growth of the fetus. It may cause bacterial infection to spread from the vagina to the uterus and consequently to the fetus. Sometimes when there is a small tear in the amniotic sac, it may heal itself over the period and the leaking may simply stop on its own accord.
However, if the leaking is a result of a severe rupture of the membranes of the amniotic sac, then labor may begin within 48 hours. When this happens, the mother-to-be must receive treatment in order to avoid causing an infection to the fetus.
Often what is thought of as leaking drip can just turn out to be the urine. Therefore, in such cases, the mother-to-be must ascertain if the fluid is urine or not. It is advised to wear a sanitary napkin and observe the color of the liquid. The amniotic fluid is colorless. The mother-to-be must never use a tampon during pregnancy.
How to Deal with It
Noting the color of the leaking fluid helps in identifying it. Amniotic fluid is yellow, green, brown or even pinkish in color. On the other hand, the color of urine is different shades of yellow. Urine also has a typical odor which helps in its identification. The woman should also note that there is a difference between vaginal discharge and amniotic fluid.
If the amniotic fluid is brownish-yellow, green, or any other color, the mother-to-be should go to the hospital right away and consult a physician. The mother-to-be is also advised to note down the color of the fluid and the time when the leaking began and inform these details to the doctor. If the water is broken on completion of the term, the physician will usually deliver the baby within 24 hours in order to avoid infection risk. However, if the term is not complete, the woman will be under hospital care.
Nowadays, many over-the-counter products are available to test whether the fluid is urine or amniotic fluid. It is always recommended that one avail these tests to ensure the health of the baby. Lastly, it is recommended that mother-to-be should not hesitate to consult the doctor for any queries and doubts. Take care.