Birth Definitions

Chorioamnionitis Definition


Chorioamnionitis is a general term used to describe an infection (bacterial, fungal, or viral) of the chorion and amnion, the two membranes that surround the fetus in the womb. This can happen before or during labor, or after delivery. It is a serious condition that can lead to preterm labor and delivery, as well as other complications such as sepsis (a potentially life-threatening condition caused by infection).

The most common cause of chorioamnionitis is bacteria that ascend from the mother’s vagina during pregnancy. This can occur during vaginal exams, sexual intercourse, or any other time bacteria comes into contact with the cervix. Other less common causes include blood transfusions or infection during surgery. Once bacteria enters the uterus, it can quickly spread to the chorion and amnion.

Symptoms of chorioamnionitis include fever, uterine tenderness, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, and abdominal pain. If left untreated, chorioamnionitis can lead to maternal sepsis, fetal distress, preterm labor, and low birth weight. Treatment typically involves antibiotics given intravenously. In some cases, a woman may need to be hospitalized for treatment.

Risk Factors and Complications

The risk factors for developing chorioamnionitis include premature rupture of membranes (PROM), prolonged labor, intrauterine device (IUD) use, multiple gestation, maternal fevers during labor, preeclampsia, diabetes, and obesity. African American women are also at increased risk.

Chorioamnionitis can lead to a number of serious complications including sepsis (a potentially life-threatening condition caused by infection), preterm labor, placental abruption (where the placenta separates from the uterine wall prematurely), and stillbirth. In addition, chorioamnionitis is associated with an increased risk of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), cerebral palsy, and other long-term neurological impairments.

While chorioamnionitis is a serious condition with potentially devastating consequences for both mother and child, prompt diagnosis and treatment can often lead to good outcomes for both mother and child. If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of chorioamnionitis, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

This image shows how often the term ‘Chorioamnionitis’ is used in relation to other, similar birth terms:


Chorioamnionitis is often used interchangeably with the terms intra-amniotic infection (IAI) and funisitis. However, there are some slight differences between these terms. Chorioamnionitis generally refers to an infection of the chorion and amnion, while IAI specifically refers to an infection of the amnion. Funisitis is an inflammation of the umbilical cord caused by infection. While chorioamnionitis can lead to funisitis, the two terms are not interchangeable.

Other Related Terms

Other terms related to Chorioamnionitis include:

Amnionitis: This is an infection of the amnion only, without the involvement of the chorion.

Chorioamniotic membrane: This is the combination of chorion and amnion.

Fetal membranes: These are the chorion and amnion, as well as the decidua basalis, the mucous layer that covers the chorion.

Intrauterine infection: This is an infection that occurs inside the uterus, but may not involve the fetal membranes.

Uterine infection: This is an infection of the uterus, but may not involve the fetal membranes.

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