Chorioamnionitis is an infection of the membranes (placental tissues) and amniotic fluid. It occurs in about 1 to 2 percent of all pregnancies, but is much more common in preterm births. Chorioamnionitis can cause bacteremia (blood infection) in the mother and may lead to preterm birth and serious infection in the newborn baby. Other terms for chorioamnionitis include intra-amniotic infection and amnionitis.
The organisms usually responsible for chorioamnionitis are those that are normally present in the vagina, including Escherichia coli (E. coli). Group B streptococcus may also cause the infection. Chorioamnionitis can develop when the membranes (amniotic sac) are ruptured (broken) for an extended period. This allows the vaginal organisms to move upward into the uterus.
The following are the most common symptoms of chorioamnionitis. However, each woman may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- increased heart rate in mother and fetus
- tender or painful uterus
- a foul odor of the amniotic fluid
The symptoms of chorioamnionitis may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, chorioamnionitis is diagnosed by symptoms and by laboratory tests for infection. Testing of the amniotic fluid by amniocentesis (withdrawing fluid with a needle) may be needed.
Specific treatment for chorioamnionitis will be determined by your physician based on:
- your overall health and medical history
- extent of the condition
- your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the course of the condition
- your opinion or preference
Antibiotics are used to treat chorioamnionitis as soon as the infection is diagnosed. Antibiotics are usually continued after delivery as well. Delivery is often necessary to prevent complications in the mother, or if the fetus is in danger.
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