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Preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) is when the amniotic sac breaks before 37 weeks of gestation and labor has not started within one hour. The sac contains amniotic fluid and the developing baby. In PPROM, the amniotic fluid inside the sac leaks or gushes out of the vagina.
If your waters break early the risks and treatment are dependent on the stage of pregnancy you are at.
You are at risk of going into labour prematurely – the health risks for the baby of early birth are greater the younger they are.
If you do not go into labour, you and the baby are at risk of infection because the normally sterile waters have been broken.
The doctors have to balance these two considerations. If the waters have broken because of infection, you and the baby have a high risk of getting the infection and you may need to deliver sooner to prevent this.
If the waters have broken but there is no infection currently present, you and the baby are still at risk but the immediate risk is lesser and your treatment will depend on your stage of pregnancy.
If you are under 24 weeks of pregnancy and the baby is born, sadly, it is unlikely the baby will survive.
If you are over 30 weeks and the baby is born, the likelihood of your baby surviving is very high - over 95%.
Tests for your baby
As well as carrying out various tests on you, the healthcare team will need to assess how your baby is doing. They will check his heartbeat and may also:
Run a scan to check his weight
Carry out electronic fetal monitoting to check his heart rate
Perform a scan to check that the placenta is functioning normally.
Even if it is a false alarm, the team may want to keep you in hospital to monitor you and your baby.
If you are in labour and less than 35 weeks pregnant, they may try to stop the contractions, or to slow down the birth enough to give you injections of steroids to help your baby breathe when he is born. Find out more here about what happens if you are definitely in labour.
If you are 35 weeks or over, the team will usually let the birth go ahead.
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