In premature rupture of membranes (PROM), the sac inside the uterus that holds the baby breaks too soon. If PROM occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is called preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM). With few exceptions, once the membrane ruptures a woman usually delivers her baby within one week.
In a full-term pregnancy, membranes rupture because their strength and elastic qualities have weakened over time and the force of contractions becomes too difficult to withstand. Before term, however, membranes can rupture for some reasons we understand and for other reasons we still haven’t figured out.
Research suggests that many cases are triggered by the body’s natural response to certain infections, including those involving amniotic fluid and fetal membranes like the placenta. However, in about half of all cases of premature birth, providers are unable to uncover why a woman delivered prematurely.
Some contributing factors to PPROM are previous preterm birth, sexually transmitted infections, vaginal bleeding, and smoking cigarettes. (That’s right, smoking cigarettes has been linked to PPROM. So here is another good reason to try to quit.) Women who receive late or no prenatal care also may be at higher risk for PPROM.
Preterm PROM is not only dangerous for the baby who will be born premature, but it can also pose a serious threat to the mom because it increases her risk of infection. Chorioamnionitis is a uterine infection that can cause a high fever, pain and a rapid pulse and it is important to receive treatment to avoid this. One study suggests that this infection also may increase a preterm or full-term baby’s risk for cerebral palsy.
The most common signs of PROM are a gush of water from the vagina or steady leaking, a constant wetness in your underwear no matter how many times you change it. If you experience any symptoms, check in with your doc or midwife right away. They can analyze the fluid, check your cervix, even do an ultrasound to see if something serious is going on.