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What Is Chorioamnionitis?

Women with chorioamnionitis may experience tenderness when the uterus is palpated.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 April 2014
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Chorioamnionitis is a complication of pregnancy in which the membranes which surround the fetus become infected. This condition most commonly occurs during prolonged labor, when bacteria have an opportunity to move up the vagina and into the uterus. Bacteria in and around the rectum can also contribute to the development of chorioamnionitis.

This complication of pregnancy is characterized by the appearance of a fever in the mother, and uterine tenderness when this area is palpated. If the mother has had a history of bacterial infection, this may be another indicator, as she may be at risk of passing an infection on to the fetus. The treatment for chorioamnionitis is antibiotics to fight the infection, along with rapid delivery of the baby to head off further complications.

This complication of pregnancy involves both the chorion, the outer membrane which surrounds the fetus, and the amnion, the inner membrane which encloses the amniotic fluid. If there is doubt that chorioamnionitis is occurring, examination of a sample of the membranes under a microscope will reveal clear evidence of bacterial infection. However, waiting for such examination is usually not recommended; since this infection often occurs as a result of long labor, it's clear that the baby is coming out anyway, so an obstetrician may simply go ahead and deliver, rather than waiting for confirmation.

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It is possible to deliver vaginally with chorioamnionitis, with some careful monitoring by obstetric personnel such as doctors, midwives, and nurses. However, if labor persists for too long, a doctor may recommend a c-section, in the interests of getting the baby out quickly, before further complications emerge. Mothers who would prefer to deliver vaginally if possible should discuss the potential for complications such as chorioamnionitis with their obstetricians before labor begins, to talk about various options and plans of action which can be taken. Planning ahead will reduce stress if an obstetrical complication occurs during labor.

Because of the risk of chorioamnionitis, doctors usually like to know when the membranes have ruptured, to have an idea of how long a woman has been laboring, and how high the risk of infection may be. People working with a mother during her delivery are also careful about washing their hands to avoid introducing bacteria to the birthing canal, and they monitor the mother's temperature and general health for any signs of complications which may be causing distress to the laboring mother or the baby.

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