Premature rupture of membranes is the early rupture (tears or bursts) of the amniotic sac, after 37 weeks gestation. Typically, a mom-to-be's water will break (or rupture) after the first stage of labor. When the membranes rupture prior to the onset of labor, it is called premature rupture of membranes, or PROM. Preterm premature rupture of membranes, or PPROM, means the amniotic sac that holds the umbilical cord, baby and placenta has burst or torn during weeks 24 to 37, before labor has become imminent.
Sexually transmitted infections--infections that are passed back and forth via sexual activity such as chlamydia and gonorrhea--can cause the premature rupture of membranes. Being screened for certain infections and using condoms as protection while having sex can reduce the risk of these infections and in turn reduce the risk associated with premature rupture of membranes. Infections that are not considered sexually transmitted may also be at fault for the premature rupture of membranes.
Premature rupture of membranes may be triggered by impending labor, natural weakening of the membranes and the force of premature contractions. When the body begins to prepare for labor, contractions may begin in anticipation of the event and they may be forceful enough to burst the amniotic sac. As the amniotic sac ages, it may get thin and become more susceptible to the force of preterm contractions.
According to the March of Dimes, cigarette smoking increases a woman's risk for premature rupture of membranes and can possibly be a cause. Babies born to mothers who smoke also have greater risk of placenta previa, a condition where the placenta lies low in the uterus often occluding the cervix, and placental abruption, when the placenta pulls away from the lining of the uterus.