What is chorioamnionitis?
Chorioamnionitis is a condition that can affect pregnant women. In this condition, bacteria infects the chorion and amnion (the membranes that surround the fetus) and the amniotic fluid (in which the fetus floats). This can lead to infections in both the mother and fetus. In most cases, this may mean the fetus has to be delivered as soon as possible.
Symptoms and Causes
What are the causes of chorioamnionitis?
Chorioamnionitis is caused by a bacterial infection that usually starts in the mother’s urogenital tract (urinary tract). Specifically, the infection can start in the vagina, anus, or rectum and move up into the uterus where the fetus is located.
Chorioamnionitis occurs in up to 2 percent of births in the United States and is one of the causes of premature delivery.
What are the symptoms of chorioamnionitis?
Although chorioamnionitis does not always cause symptoms, some women with the infection might have the following:
Diagnosis and Tests
How is chorioamnionitis diagnosed?
Chorioamnionitis is most often diagnosed by physical exam and discussion of the symptoms. Other clues can be found by taking a blood sample from the mother and checking for bacteria. In addition, the doctor might take samples of the amniotic fluid (the fluid around the fetus) to look for bacteria. The doctor may also use ultrasound to check on the health of the fetus.
Management and Treatment
How is chorioamnionitis treated?
If your doctor diagnoses chorioamnionitis, he or she may treat you with antibiotics to help treat the infection. However, often the treatment is to deliver the fetus. If the newborn has an infection, he or she will be given antibiotics as well.
What are the complications of chorioamnionitis?
If the mother has a serious case of chorioamnionitis, or if it goes untreated, she might develop complications, including:
- Infections in the pelvic region and abdomen
- Endometritis (an infection of the endometrium, the lining of the uterus)
- Blood clots in the pelvis and lungs
- Sepsis (a life-threatening infection in the blood)
The newborn might also have complications from a bacterial infection, including sepsis (infection of the blood), meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and the spinal cord), and respiratory problems.
What are the risk factors for chorioamnionitis?
Certain factors might create a higher risk for chorioamnionitis, including:
- Premature labor
- Fetal membranes that are ruptured (the water has broken) for a prolonged time