The first step is recognizing it. There are many ways it can happen:
The second step is checking to see if there are any red flags in the fluid itself, how it happened, and how long it’s been since it broke. To remember what to look for, remember the acronym COAT.
C is for the color of the fluid. Ideally it is clear, maybe with a tinge of blood or mucous. If it has a lot of blood, or is tinged with another color, that’s a red flag you’ll want to talk about with your care provider right away.
O is for odor. Under normal circumstances, amniotic fluid doesn’t have much of a smell. If it smells funky or bad, that’s a clear red flag.
A is for the amount of fluid. While any amount can be normal, your care provider will want to know if it broke as a trickle or a gush. This can be helpful in interpreting the information about the color or smell.
T is for time. The longer your water has been broken, the greater chance that an infection could be a problem. Again, it’s not a red flag alone, but it can factor into how the other information is interpreted.
For the vast majority of women, their water won’t break until after labor begins. But if you’re concerned that your water has broken too early, thinking about these factors and consulting with your care provider can help you figure out the best course of action.