Premature rupture of membranes (PROM) refers to a patient who is beyond 37 weeks’ gestation and has presented with rupture of membranes (ROM) prior to the onset of labor. Preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) is ROM prior to 37 weeks’ gestation. Spontaneous preterm rupture of the membranes (SPROM) is ROM after or with the onset of labor occurring prior to 37 weeks. Prolonged ROM is any ROM that persists for more than 24 hours and prior to the onset of labor.
At term, programmed cell death and activation of catabolic enzymes, such as collagenase and mechanical forces, result in ruptured membranes. Preterm PROM occurs probably due to the same mechanisms and premature activation of these pathways. However, early PROM also appears to be linked to underlying pathologic processes, most likely due to inflammation and/or infection of the membranes. Clinical factors associated with preterm PROM include low socioeconomic status, low body mass index, tobacco use, preterm labor history, urinary tract infection, vaginal bleeding at any time in pregnancy, cerclage, and amniocentesis.
Eighty-five percent of neonatal morbidity and mortality is a result of prematurity. PPROM is associated with 30-40% of preterm deliveries and is the leading identifiable cause of preterm delivery. PPROM complicates 3% of all pregnancies and occurs in approximately 150,000 pregnancies yearly in the United States.
When PPROM occurs remote from term, significant risks of morbidity and mortality are present for both the fetus and the mother. Thus, the physician caring for the pregnant woman whose pregnancy has been complicated with PPROM plays an important role in management and needs to be familiar with potential complications and possible interventions to minimize risks and maximize the probability of the desired outcome. This article focuses on information the physician needs to achieve these goals.
For patient education resources, see the Pregnancy Center and Labor Signs.