Should You Try Breaking Your Own Water?

If your due date passes, you may be tempted to break your own water. But is this safe? We spoke with experts to find out.

pregnant person with hands on their belly

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Forty weeks is a long time to manage uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms, extra weight gain, and hormonal mood swings. That’s why it's normal for many pregnant people to get antsy if their due date passes without nary a contraction.

Some people even consider encouraging labor to begin by breaking their water themselves. They likely wonder if this is a safe method to try and if it will actually work. However, while it's certainly understandable to want to move things along, breaking your own water is not recommended and is potentially quite dangerous for you and your baby. Here’s what expectant parents need to know.

Why and When Water Breaks During Pregnancy

Your baby floats in a sac of amniotic fluid inside of your uterus. This fluid cushions your baby, promotes fetal development, and maintains a comfortable temperature inside the womb. Toward the end of the third trimester, the amniotic sac may rupture naturally, causing fluid to leak through the cervix and vaginal canal, says Ashley Brichter, founder and CEO of Birth Smarter, which offers in-person and virtual childbirth classes for expectant parents.

This is known as your water breaking or rupturing the membranes, and it signals that your baby is coming soon. Typically, once the water is broken, contractions will start in the next hours or days.

Contrary to what you may have seen in the movies, your water doesn't always break before labor starts, says Ami Burns, a childbirth educator and doula in Chicago and the founder of Birth Talk. Indeed, only 15 or 20 percent of pregnant people experience their water breaking before contractions begin.

If it does not happen spontaneously before contractions begin, it will usually happen on its own during labor. “You could be in active labor, already at the hospital, and fully dilated before it breaks,” explains Burns. If it doesn't happen naturally, at various points, your doctor may decide to move things along by either "sweeping" the membranes to separate them from the cervix or breaking them.

Why You May Be Tempted to Break Your Own Water

Some pregnant people consider breaking their own water to jumpstart going into labor or help labor progress. Others wish to avoid an induction at the hospital, which doctors might suggest if the pregnancy progresses too long. However, there are many sound reasons for this as prolonged pregnancy has been linked to negative side effects for the fetus, such as shoulder dystocia, placenta problems, infection, and fetal macrosomia.

Why It's Not Safe to Break Your Own Water

Breaking your water on your own is not advised. In fact, it can actually be very risky. “Unless there’s a medical reason for your doctor to break your water or induce labor, let nature take its course,” Burns says.

There are some significant risks involved with breaking your own water, including that your baby might not be ready for delivery. Vital fetal development happens even in the last weeks and days of pregnancy.

Additionally, putting a foreign object in the amniotic sac can harm the fetus or cause infection. Germs from the birth canal can be incidentally transferred into the womb. Or you might accidentally scratch or cut yourself or your baby. Plus, inserting something into the vagina can be very uncomfortable or painful toward the end of pregnancy.

You also don't know how quickly contractions will begin after your water has broken. Labor generally begins hours or days after your water breaks. However, it’s possible for labor to start right away and progress very quickly. You might not have time to get to the hospital and be faced with having to deliver the baby at home or en route.

Also, an unexpected complication could occur requiring medical treatment that won't be available. Breech presentation (your baby is feet first) or other unexpected factors could complicate delivery.

It’s also vital to understand that, once the water does break, most doctors recommend delivering within 24 hours. Otherwise, there is a heightened risk that an infection will travel to the baby.

Why Only Medical Professionals Should Break Your Water

If your labor isn’t progressing, the doctor might want to break your water at the hospital. This procedure, called an amniotomy, usually involves rupturing the amniotic sac with a small hook. It’s generally safe under medical supervision.

However, complications can arise, particularly when done outside of a medical setting and/or by someone other than a trained medical professional. For example, if the baby is not in the ideal, head-down birthing position, there is a greater risk of the umbilical cord entering the birth canal before the baby, potentially causing compression of your baby's blood supply and the need for an immediate c-section.

Safe Ways to Encourage Labor to Begin

To get labor going and avoid induction at the hospital, there are some safe ways pregnant people can try to encourage labor naturally at home. While you should never break your own water, you can try other labor induction methods. (Make sure to get consult your doctor first!) Here are some options that might be approved by your practitioner.


Helping your baby get into the proper position through postural work and low-impact exercises. For example, you can bounce, rock, or rotate your hips on a birthing ball, which opens your pelvis and softens the cervix. Going on a walk, keeping your feet parallel when standing, and performing pelvic tilts may also help.

Sexual activity

Having sex may encourage labor to begin. Sperm contains cervix-softening prostaglandins (the same thing used in inductions), and female orgasms might spur contractions if labor is already close.

Nipple stimulation

Stimulating your nipples to release oxytocin could cause uterine contractions, as well. Most doctors suggest doing this under medical supervision since this could lead to fetal distress or overstimulation of the uterus.

The Bottom Line

While it may be tempting to attempt breaking your own water. Don't do it, it's not safe. It can be hard to wait for labor to begin on its own, but trying to rupture your own membranes could injure you or your baby and/or expose your baby to infection. Instead, talk to your doctor or midwife about what options you, as a team, can safely take to move things along—or if simply waiting a bit more is best.

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