Published online February 4, 2010, in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the study, from researchers affiliated with Kaiser Permanente in California, looked at risk factors for premature rupture of the membranes (PROM), a complication in which a woman's water breaks before her pregnancy has reached full-term and before labor has begun. It's estimated that PROM affects more than 200,000 US women annually.
Reviewing health data from a large group of women living in Missouri, researchers found that when a woman's water broke early during her first or second pregnancy, she was more likely to have her water break again in a subsequent pregnancy.
Researchers also found that pregnancy spacing mattered. Women who got pregnant again within three to six months were between three to nearly nine times more likely to see a repeat PROM compared to women who had waited at least 18 months before conceiving subsequent babies.
Premature rupture of the membranes accounts for one in every four preterm birth in the US, notes the study's findings. The complication is also known to put moms and their babies at risk for infection. According to researchers, the complication may be related to inflammation, and that a longer wait between pregnancies may be needed by a woman's body to allow for a full recovery.
"We think that it might be a chronic inflammation that may persist from one pregnancy to another pregnancy," says lead researcher Dr. Darios Getahun of Kaiser Permanente Southern California Medical Group in Pasadena, California, in an interview with Reuters Health. Dr. Getahun also adds that women whose water broke early should always be watched closely in subsequent pregnancies, no matter how far apart pregnancies are spaced, should any problems develop.