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Intra-Amniotic Infection


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Jun 2021| Content last modified Jun 2021
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What is amniotic fluid?

Amniotic fluid is the liquid that surrounds your baby when you're pregnant. The amniotic fluid is held in the amniotic sac. The amniotic sac forms inside of your uterus (womb) when you're pregnant. It contains your baby and amniotic fluid. When labor starts, your amniotic sac breaks open (ruptures) and amniotic fluid leaks out. This is called "having your water break."

What is an intra-amniotic infection?

An intra-amniotic infection is an infection of the amniotic fluid or sac. It happens when bacteria (germs) from your vagina (birth canal) get into your uterus. The infection can harm your baby. It can also cause serious problems for you.

  • Bacteria can enter your uterus more easily after your water breaks

  • You're more likely to get an infection if you have certain bacteria in your vagina, such as streptococci (strep)

  • The more time that passes between when your water breaks and when you deliver, the greater the chance of infection

  • That's why doctors try to deliver babies within 24 hours of the water breaking

What are the symptoms of an intra-amniotic infection?

You may not have any symptoms or you may have:

  • Fever

  • Lower belly pain

  • Bad-smelling discharge from your vagina

  • A fast heart rate in you or your baby

What are the risks of an intra-amniotic infection?

For your baby, an intra-amniotic infection can increase the risk of these problems:

  • Early delivery

  • Too little oxygen in your baby's blood around the time of delivery

  • Infections, such as a bloodstream infection

  • Seizures (sudden, jerking motions) 

  • Cerebral palsy (brain damage that affects your baby's muscles)

  • Death

For you, an intra-amniotic infection can increase the risk of these problems:

  • A bloodstream infection

  • Need for surgery to deliver your baby, called a cesarean section (C-section)

  • Infection of incisions (cuts made by the doctors) during delivery

  • Bleeding after delivery

  • A collection of pus (abscess) around your uterus

  • Blood clots in your legs

How can doctors tell if I have an intra-amniotic infection?

  • Doctors can usually tell if you have intra-amniotic infection by doing a physical exam

  • If your doctor thinks you have an intra-amniotic infection, you may have a blood test

  • If your water has broken very early or if you’re in labor before 37 weeks of pregnancy, doctors may also test a sample of your amniotic fluid

How do doctors treat an intra-amniotic infection?

To treat an intra-amniotic infection, doctors will:

  • Give you IV antibiotics (directly into your vein)

  • Deliver your baby as soon as possible

How can I prevent an intra-amniotic infection?

There isn’t much you can do to prevent an intra-amniotic infection, but doctors can do a couple things:

  • If your water breaks very early, doctors will give you pelvic exams only when they have to

  • Doctors will also give you antibiotics, either by mouth or through a vein

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