Premature rupture of membranes (PROM) is the breaking of the amniotic sac before labor begins. The sac contains amniotic fluid and the developing baby. With PROM, the amniotic fluid inside the sac leaks or gushes out of the vagina. This is also known as your water breaking.
PROM occurs during the third trimester after 37 weeks of gestation. A related condition called preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) occurs before 37 weeks of gestation.
Call your doctor right away if you suspect that your water has broken.
The causes of PROM are not clearly understood. Some of the possible causes are:
- Early dilation of the cervix . This may be due to the weight of baby and placenta, or changes in the cervix itself.
- Infections of the vagina, uterus, or membranes surrounding the fetus.
Factors that may increase your chance of PROM include:
The main symptom of PROM is fluid leaking from the vagina. You may experience a sudden gush of fluid or a slow, constant trickle. It can be difficult to distinguish between a slow amniotic trickle or urine. Your doctor can do simple tests to determine this.
Symptoms include a fever above 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor right away.
Complications from PROM may include:
If a large amount of fluid is leaking from the vagina, diagnosing PROM can be straightforward. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor may do the following tests:
- Visual exam—the doctor may be able to see a trickle of fluid through the cervix, or a pool of fluid collected behind the cervix
- Nitrazine paper test—the doctor puts a small amount of fluid on a piece of paper to see if it is amniotic fluid
- Microscopic exam of the fluid
The doctor will also check you for fever and other signs of infection. He will monitor your baby for any signs of distress.
Labor usually begins within hours after PROM. If labor does not begin soon after your water breaks, the risk of infection increases. In many cases, labor will be induced by giving you medications. Antibiotics may also be given.
You and your baby will be watched closely to look for signs of any problems developing. For example, your baby’s heart rate will be monitored.
Researchers are investigating ways to prevent PROM. Taking antibiotics during the second and third trimester may reduce your risk. Taking vitamin C may also lower your chance of developing PROM. You can also take steps for a healthier pregnancy, like quitting smoking.
- Reviewer: Andrea Chisholm; Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 05/11/2013 -