Published online by Cambridge University Press: 15 November 2017
Intra-amniotic infection/inflammation (IAI) is a frequent and important cause of spontaneous preterm labor and delivery. Indeed, it is the only pathologic process for which both a causal link with spontaneous preterm birth has been established and a molecular pathophysiology defined. Fetal infection/inflammation has been implicated in the genesis of fetal and neonatal injury leading to cerebral palsy (CP) and chronic lung disease. Pathologic intra-amniotic inflammation can occur in the absence of detectable microorganisms, upon analysis by cultivation and/or molecular microbiologic techniques. This condition is known as sterile intra-amniotic inflammation and has been observed in patients with preterm labor and intact membranes, preterm prelabor rupture of the membranes (PPROM), and a short cervix. A mild sterile inflammatory process also participates in spontaneous labor at term, but this is considered to be an example of physiologic inflammation similar to that implicated in other important events in reproductive physiology, such as ovulation and implantation.