Learning About Prelabor Rupture of Membranes (PROM)

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What is prelabor rupture of membranes?

Before a baby is born, the amniotic sac breaks open. This causes amniotic fluid to either leak slowly or gush out. It's often called "having your water break." When this happens before contractions start, it is called prelabor rupture of membranes (PROM).

PROM can occur at any time during pregnancy before labor begins. Early PROM can happen before 37 full weeks of pregnancy. Then it's called preterm prelabor rupture of membranes, or pPROM.

Smoking while pregnant increases the risk of PROM.

What happens when you have PROM?

  • Labor usually starts soon after PROM. If it doesn't, your doctor may induce labor (use medicine to start it).
  • The amniotic sac protects the baby from infection. After the sac is torn, the risk for infection is much higher. If you think your sac has broken open, avoid letting anything enter your vagina. Don't have sex or flush your vagina with fluid (douche).
  • After the sac ruptures, the baby moves down into the pelvis. The baby may press on the umbilical cord. This is not common, but it can cut off the baby's oxygen and blood supplies. In that case the baby must be delivered quickly.

What are the symptoms?

  • When your water breaks, it often feels like a large gush of water. Or it may feel like you're leaking a small amount of water.
  • Water from the amniotic sac is normally a cloudy-white to an amber-straw color. If you notice that your water is dark or greenish, foul-smelling, or bloody, tell your doctor.

How is PROM treated?

Your doctor will probably have you go to the hospital. If labor doesn't start in 12 to 24 hours, your doctor may want to induce. If your doctor is worried about infection, you may be given antibiotics.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.