When you’re pregnant, your body takes the lead and employs all necessary lines of defense against infection and illness. As far as your uterus goes, the amniotic sac holds in the essential fluids to keep your baby healthy as well as protect him or her from infections on the outside. When the amniotic sac is in tact, infections or bacteria will not make it past this barrier. However, when your amniotic sac has been ruptured, your baby is at risk for infection.

Premature rupture of the membrane is not common, and it occurs in less than 15% of pregnancies. Normally, it should happen right before labor and everything will go according to plan. However, if it happens preterm, you are at risk for an infection in your amniotic fluid. You’ll know if your amniotic membrane broke if you seem to be leaking liquid from your vagina. If it doesn’t smell like urine, it’s probably amniotic fluid, and you should seek medical attention right away.

If bacteria sneaks up into your amniotic sac, you will get an infection called Chorioamnionitis. The infection occurs in less than 2% of pregnancies, so you are not at high risk if everything is going smoothly. However, you are at a very high risk if your amniotic sac breaks prematurely. If you have Chorioamnionitis, you will get serious symptoms such as a fever, tenderness in your uterus, and foul-smelling amniotic fluid.

Call your doctor right away if you have these symptoms. Chorioamnionitis has been associated with preterm labor and other serious developmental problems, so you should start taking antibiotics immediately. Your doctor also might suggest keeping your baby on antibiotics after he or she is born to make sure the infection has been completely wiped out. If the infection seems serious, your doctor might also suggest the induction of labor. Even if you are not near your expected due date, your baby will not do well staying in infected amniotic fluid, so induction is the better of two risky options.

Chorioamnionitis is dangerous, and the only line of defense is being diligent in making sure you are not leaking amniotic fluid too soon. If you notice any mysterious liquid, investigate to rule out any other fluids. If it’s not urine or spotting, see your doctor right away. If you don’t, you could contract the infection and your baby’s life and well being will be at risk.

Source: Soraisham AS et al: A Multicenter Study on the Clinical Outcome of Chorioamnionitis in Preterm Infants. American Journal of Obstetric Gynecology Volume 200 Issue 4 April 2009

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