Let’s TACO’bout the Membranes

The membranes belong to your baby.  They are newly created for each baby, just like the placenta is newly created for each baby.  They transfer nutrients and hormones between mom and baby, and protect baby while they grow and while you labor.

“Breaking your water” increases the risks of fetal distress, maternal and fetal infection, cord prolapse, fetal malposition and difficult birth, and does not routinely decrease the length of your labor.  Prolonged ruptured membranes may cause increased blood loss for mom as well.  Your baby’s membranes were created to stay intact until baby is close to being born for all of these reasons, and likely many more we don’t yet know, and may never know.

For approximately 1 out of 3 moms, the membranes will release prior to contractions beginning.  For these moms, contractions usually begin within 72 hours.  When this happens, in addition to paying close attention to baby’s movements and calling your midwife, remember TACO.

  • TIME – What time did they rupture?
  • AMOUNT – How much fluid came?
  • COLOR – What color is it?
  • ODOR – What smell does it have?

TACO provides a little information about the health of your fluid, potential influences on baby and you during birth, and if additional choices in labor might be helpful for monitoring or supporting wellness.

Your baby’s membranes help to slowly dilate the cervix and the amniotic fluid helps to provide additional lubrication for birth.  As your baby is continuously practicing how to breathe with the fluid and learning how to swallow with the fluid, they need the fluid so that labor can take as long as it needs to take.  Components in the fluid are providing proteins and immune system support for your baby to transition to a new environment before they are able to receive breastmilk.

In my service, I don’t artificially rupture membranes.  It is an intervention that I find to increase the risk of birth and have yet to find any added benefit or reason to think it is necessary or helpful, especially at home.  In fact, I encourage moms to help keep their membranes strong and intact as long as possible.  Nourishment during pregnancy is the best way this is achieved with dark leafy greens, collagen-rich foods, and foods rich in Vitamins A, C, and E.  Supplements may be an option where these food sources are minimal.

When the membranes rupture and birth does not quickly follow remember:

  • Nothing in the vagina. No intercourse, and minimal, if any, internal exams
  • Wipe from front to back.  Use a shower for bathing unless you are having active contractions.  (Water birth is OK after ruptured membranes, but it is helpful to wait for contractions to begin and be in a regular pattern)
  • Support the immune system with healthy food and/or supplements
  • Hydrate.  Drink 2-3 quarts of pregnancy tea, or electrolyte drink daily
  • Get moving. If contractions don’t begin after a night of rest, or within 3-4 hours if it is during the day, move your body in different positions or start rebozo therapy to help reposition baby

It’s possible for one layer of membranes to heal or labor to not come for days (or weeks).  Communicate with your midwife so she can help you and baby receive the best care possible.  If your membranes release early, pay close attention to your baby’s activity and monitor yourself for signs of infection.  Early ruptured membranes are a variation in a wide range of possibilities.