During pregnancy, the baby grows in a bag of fluid called the amniotic sac. For most women, the bag of water breaks during labor, sometime after 37 weeks. Women often feel a gush of fluid when this happens. Care providers call this process ?rupture of membranes,? or ROM. If a woman's water breaks before she goes into labor, it's called premature rupture of membranes, or PROM.

When the membranes rupture before the 37th week of pregnancy, it is called preterm premature rupture of membranes or PPROM. PPROM puts a woman at risk of early delivery, as well as infection. The membranes and the bath of amniotic fluid normally protect the baby from bacteria that may travel up from the vagina. In addition, without fluid around it, the baby may press against its umbilical cord, which cuts down delivery of oxygen and nutrition. Mothers who have broken their water early are usually admitted to the hospital and monitored closely for signs of distress from the baby or developing infection. Most mothers deliver within 7 days of breaking their water, although some stay pregnant for weeks.