Breaking Your Water for Labor Is Not Beneficial

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Amniotomy, or breaking your water, is a method of inducing or augmenting labor (speeding it up). It has been frequently used routinely in early labor for many pregnant women or during induction of labor. The belief was that it would speed up labor and help prevent a cesarean section (c-section).

A recent meta-analysis found that while amniotomy may speed labor up a bit, the risks of doing so is not worth it for women who are experiencing normal, spontaneous labor. One trial found that there was a marked increase in fetal distress that leads to cesarean delivery when amniotomy was used.

The main finding is that when labor is progressing normally there is no need to intervene. Amniotomy should be used only when there is a problem. To intervene when there is not a problem only increases the likelihood that there will be a problem from the intervention. Amniotomy can increase the risks of infection, pain, and potentially cesarean section.

There are other ways to increase the speed of labor, that do not incur the risks of amniotomy and some of the powerful drugs like Pitocin. Some of these ways to speed up labor naturally include:

  • Use of upright positions
  • Movement (walking, dancing, swaying, etc.)
  • Calm mother down by using relaxation techniques
  • Acupressure in certain points
  • Nipple stimulation
  • Orgasm
  • Ensure that the bladder is empty

Also, remember to be sure to ask if speeding up labor is really necessary. Recent studies have shown that labor can take longer to get going than we previously thought and that we often hurry labor unnecessarily. Sometimes waiting is the best option for everyone.

In some practices, the use of amniotomy in spontaneous labor is very common, almost to the point of being routine. This is something that you should ask your doctor or midwife about during your prenatal visits. Ask them when they believe that there is a need for amniotomy or when it should be left alone. This can help you form your decisions ahead of time and gives you a chance to have your choices heard and discussed, outside of the delivery room.

Amniotomy to Induce Labor

When using amniotomy as a way to induce labor, it is not effective for most women alone. Typically breaking the bag of waters is done in conjunction with other methods of induction of labor, including the use of Pitocin ( a synthetic form of oxytocin). Together the medication and amniotomy can be more beneficial at jump-starting labor.

Your midwife or doctor may be able to give you other options to help you labor comfortably without the added risks from breaking your water.

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  • Fraser WD, Turcot L, Krauss I, Brisson-Carrol G. Amniotomy for shortening spontaneous labor. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 1996, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD000015. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000015.pub2
  • Howarth G, Botha DJ. Amniotomy plus intravenous oxytocin for induction of labor. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2001, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD003250. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003250
  • Laughon, S.K., Branch, D.W., Beaver, J., Zhang, J., Changes in labor patterns over 50 years, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (2012), doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2012.03.003.
  • Safe prevention of the primary cesarean delivery. Obstetric Care Consensus No. 1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2014;123:693–711.
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