Frequent testing is par for the course during pregnancy, especially as childbirth approaches. However, it isn't always clear why any given test is performed. Fetal membrane rupture monitoring is commonly carried out when someone believes their water may have broken. This test is critical as it gives important information about the timing of delivery.
Fetal Membrane Rupture:
The amniotic sac, or fetal membrane, generally ruptures at the beginning of or during labor. This releases the amniotic fluid in the amniotic sac, which is often referred to as one's "water breaking." Sometimes, the water breaks before labor starts, and in these cases, labor normally follows within 24 hours. This is a normal part of the childbirth process, but if one's water breaks before 37 weeks, it can be a cause for concern.
Preterm Rupture of Membranes:
Preterm rupture of membranes (PROM) is when the individual's water breaks before 37 weeks. PROM happens around 3% of all pregnancies and causes one out of every three premature deliveries. Although most pregnancies affected by PROM result in healthy childbirth, it is associated with an increased risk for birth complications.
The risk of complications and fetal death goes up the earlier PROM occurs. PROM can sometimes reverse itself, but it normally leads to preterm birth in the following days, which comes with a host of special considerations for neonatal health. In addition, delivering later than 24 hours after PROM is associated with an increased risk of infection, so identifying PROM early is crucial.
Testing for PROM:
PROM can be easily identified in some cases by the release of large amounts of amniotic fluid from the vagina. However, this isn't always the case. Sometimes only small amounts of amniotic fluid leak out, and this fluid can be mistaken for urine. In cases where PROM is suspected, doctors and other care professionals can perform several tests to identify whether the fetal membranes have ruptured.
Most tests for PROM begin with the clinician collecting fluid from the vagina using a speculum and a collection tool. In the process, the doctor will examine the cervix for dilation and other early signs of labor. Some tests are based on the differences between vaginal fluid and amniotic fluid.
For example, vaginal fluids are typically acidic, with a pH between 4.5 and 6.0. In contrast, amniotic fluid has a neutral pH that ranges from 7.1 to 7.3. Other tests look for certain proteins that are present in amniotic fluid but not vaginal fluid. If these tests are inconclusive, clinicians can use ultrasound technology or inject a special dye into the placenta to test for leaks.
If you suspect that you may be experiencing PROM, call your care team immediately. Identifying PROM early is the best way to ensure the safety of you and your baby. You may consider utilizing AmnioTest™ kit from Pro-Lab Diagnostics to help your care team make a quick and reliable test.