When Your Water Breaks Without Contractions

We often associate water breaking with labor. Occasionally, water can break before labor begins. This is known as premature rupture of membranes (PROM). If your water breaks before you are 37 weeks pregnant, this is called preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM).

If Your Water Breaks Before Labor Begins

​Illustration by Brianna Gilmartin, Verywell

If your water breaks before your labor contractions begin, your doctor or midwife will give you a few options based on any other symptoms and your medical history. Together you can decide what's best for you. Some recommendations may not be safe and it's possible that you may not respond to others, given your medical history.

You will also want to discuss when you should go to the hospital, birth center, or doctor's office. If you are planning a home birth, your midwife will let you know when they will come to check on you and baby.

Watchful Waiting

Sometimes it takes a few hours for contractions to kick into gear. As long as you and your practitioner are fine with it, waiting for a while may be appropriate assuming that you and baby are doing well. This generally means:

  • No baths
  • No sex
  • Nothing going into your vagina

There is also the question of whether care should be given at home or in the hospital. Currently, we do not have enough data to say that one results in a better outcome. For many, it's a personal preference. Generally, it is safe to stay at home as long as you are not showing any signs of infection: fever, foul odor, or discolored fluid.

Antibiotics are not recommended for all women who experience PROM. In the absence of an infection, there are no benefits to using them and there are potential risks associated with their use.

One study reported that waiting up to 24 hours after your water breaks, known as expectant management, didn't increase the risk of complications as long as neither mother or baby had an infection.

Natural Labor Stimulation

You may opt to stimulate labor using natural means. You can try nipple stimulation using your hands, or a breast pump. This helps produce oxytocin, which can help start contractions. If you don't have a breast pump, you can usually get one from a hospital lactation consultant.

You can also try walking to get labor going. A walk around the house or even outside might help. Acupressure may also be useful. This involves using pressure on certain spots on your body, like four fingers above your inner ankle, to help stimulate oxytocin and in turn labor.

Medical Techniques

If your doctor recommends them, medical interventions can also be helpful. Pitocin is a synthetic form of oxytocin. It is given through an IV. It is given only with good fetal monitoring because of increased risks to you and your baby, such as fetal distress, too strong or long contractions, and uterine rupture. 

What About PPROM?

Preterm premature rupture of membranes is different. The course of action will depend on how far along you are in your pregnancy and if your health care providers can determine the cause of your water breaking. For example, if your water broke due to an infection, IV antibiotics may be started immediately while deciding if the baby needs to be delivered right away.

Another course of action may be to use corticosteroids to help mature your baby’s lungs, if your water has broken prior to 32 weeks gestation. While you may still have your baby early, the steroids help to reduce the number of complications your baby has once born.

A Word From Verywell

If you experience your water breaking before the start of labor, call your midwife or doctor to discuss your symptoms. This will help you choose the safest course of action for you in this pregnancy. Know that the further away you are from your due date, the more likely you are to need hospital-based care to help you have a healthy baby.

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Mercer BM. Preterm premature rupture of the membranes. Obstet Gynecol. 2003;101(1):178-193. doi:10.1016/S0029-7844(02)02366-9

  2. Caughey AB, Robinson JN, Norwitz ER. Contemporary diagnosis and management of preterm premature rupture of membranesRev Obstet Gynecol. 2008;1(1):11-22.

  3. Wojcieszek AM, Stock OM, Flenady V. Antibiotics for prelabour rupture of membranes at or near term. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(10):CD001807. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001807.pub2

  4. Hall HG, McKenna LG, Griffiths DL. Complementary and alternative medicine for induction of labour. Women Birth. 2012;25(3):142-148. doi:10.1016/j.wombi.2011.03.006

  5. Torkzahrani S, Ghobadi K, Heshmat R, Shakeri N, Jalali Aria K. Effect of acupressure on cervical ripening. Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2015;17(8):e28691. doi:10.5812/ircmj.28691

  6. Hosny AEMS, Fakhry MN, El-Khayat W, Kashef MT. Risk factors associated with preterm labor, with special emphasis on preterm premature rupture of membranes and severe preterm labor. J Chin Med Assoc. 2020;83(3):280-287. doi:10.1097/JCMA.0000000000000243

  7. Roberts D, Brown J, Medley N, Dalziel SR. Antenatal corticosteroids for accelerating fetal lung maturation for women at risk of preterm birth. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;3:CD004454. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004454.pub3

Additional Reading

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.