Uterine rupture is a spontaneous tearing open of the uterus that may result in the fetus floating in the abdomen.
Rupture of the uterus is very rare. It is an emergency requiring immediate treatment.
The uterus can rupture before or during labor. Rupture is more likely in women who have had a cesarean delivery or who have had surgery on the uterus. The risk of uterine rupture for women who have had a cesarean delivery increases if they require induction of labor instead of having spontaneous labor. Rupture is also more likely when the uterus is stretched too much (for example, by too much amniotic fluid in the uterus or by several fetuses) or when the fetus is in the wrong position for delivery and has to be turned.
Rupture causes severe, constant pain in the abdomen and an abnormally slow heart rate in the fetus.
The fetus must be delivered by cesarean immediately. The uterus is then repaired surgically. Sometimes removal of the uterus (hysterectomy) is necessary.
Last full review/revision June 2013 by Julie S. Moldenhauer, MD