In a randomized controlled trial David van der Ham and colleagues investigate induction of labor versus expectant management for women with preterm prelabor rupture of membranes.
At present, there is insufficient evidence to guide appropriate management of women with preterm prelabor rupture of membranes (PPROM) near term.
Methods and Findings
We conducted an open-label randomized controlled trial in 60 hospitals in The Netherlands, which included non-laboring women with >24 h of PPROM between 34+0 and 37+0 wk of gestation. Participants were randomly allocated in a 1∶1 ratio to induction of labor (IoL) or expectant management (EM) using block randomization. The main outcome was neonatal sepsis. Secondary outcomes included mode of delivery, respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), and chorioamnionitis. Patients and caregivers were not blinded to randomization status. We updated a prior meta-analysis on the effect of both interventions on neonatal sepsis, RDS, and cesarean section rate.
From 1 January 2007 to 9 September 2009, 776 patients in 60 hospitals were eligible for the study, of which 536 patients were randomized. Four patients were excluded after randomization. We allocated 266 women (268 neonates) to IoL and 266 women (270 neonates) to EM. Neonatal sepsis occurred in seven (2.6%) newborns of women in the IoL group and in 11 (4.1%) neonates in the EM group (relative risk [RR] 0.64; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.25 to 1.6). RDS was seen in 21 (7.8%, IoL) versus 17 neonates (6.3%, EM) (RR 1.3; 95% CI 0.67 to 2.3), and a cesarean section was performed in 36 (13%, IoL) versus 37 (14%, EM) women (RR 0.98; 95% CI 0.64 to 1.50). The risk for chorioamnionitis was reduced in the IoL group. No serious adverse events were reported.
Updating an existing meta-analysis with our trial results (the only eligible trial for the update) indicated RRs of 1.06 (95% CI 0.64 to 1.76) for neonatal sepsis (eight trials, 1,230 neonates) and 1.27 (95% CI 0.98 to 1.65) for cesarean section (eight trials, 1,222 women) for IoL compared with EM.
In women whose pregnancy is complicated by late PPROM, neither our trial nor the updated meta-analysis indicates that IoL substantially improves pregnancy outcomes compared with EM.
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN29313500
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Most pregnancies last around 40 weeks, but in industrialized countries, 5%–10% of babies are born before 37 weeks of gestation (gestation is the period during which a baby develops in its mother's womb). Premature birth is a major cause of infant death in many developed countries, and preterm babies can also have short- and/or long-term health problems such as breathing problems, increased susceptibility to life-threatening infections, and learning and developmental disabilities. There are many reasons why some babies are born prematurely, but preterm prelabor rupture of the membranes (PPROM) accounts for 30%–40% of preterm deliveries. Inside the womb, the baby is held in a fluid-filled bag called the amniotic sac. The amniotic fluid cushions the baby, helps some of its organs develop, and protects both mother and baby from infection. The membranes that form the sac usually break at the start of labor (“water breaking”), but in PPROM, the membranes break before the baby is fully grown. PPROM increases the mother's risk of a womb infection called chorioamnionitis and the baby's risk of neonatal sepsis (blood infection), and can trigger early labor.
Why Was This Study Done?
There is currently no consensus on how to manage women whose membranes rupture between 34 and 37 weeks' gestation. Some guidelines recommend immediate induction of labor if PPROM occurs at or beyond 34 weeks' gestation. Others recommend that labor not be induced unless the mother develops signs of infection such as a high temperature or has not delivered her baby spontaneously by 37 weeks' gestation (expectant management). Before 34 weeks' gestation, expectant management is generally recommended. In this randomized controlled trial, the researchers compare the effects of induction of labor and of expectant management on the rate of neonatal sepsis (the proportion of babies that develop neonatal sepsis; the trial's primary outcome) and on secondary outcomes such as the rates of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), cesarean section (surgical delivery), and chorioamnionitis in women with PPROM between 34 and 37 weeks' gestation. The researchers also undertake a meta-analysis of published trials on the effect of both interventions on pregnancy outcomes. A randomized controlled trial compares the effects of different interventions in groups of individuals chosen through the play of chance; meta-analysis is a statistical approach that combines the results of several trials.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In the PPROM Expectant Management versus Induction of Labor (PRROMEXIL) trial, 532 non-laboring women with PPROM between 34 and 37 weeks' gestation were randomly assigned to either immediate induction of labor or expectant management. Neonatal sepsis occurred in seven babies born to women in the induction of labor group and in 11 babies born to women in the expectant management group. This difference was not statistically significant. That is, it could have happened by chance. Similarly, although more babies born to women in the induction of labor group than in the expectant management group developed RDS (21 and 17 babies, respectively), this difference was not significant. Cesarean section rates were similar in both intervention groups, but the risk of chorioamnionitis was slightly reduced in the induction of labor group compared to the expectant management group. Finally, the researchers' meta-analysis (which included these new results) found no significant differences in the risk of neonatal sepsis, RDS, or cesarean section associated with the two interventions.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, compared to expectant management, induction of labor did not reduce the incidence of neonatal sepsis in pregnancies complicated by PPROM between 34 and 37 weeks' gestation. However, because fewer babies than expected born to the women in the expectant management group developed neonatal sepsis, this trial was underpowered. That is, too few women were enrolled in the trial to enable the detection of a small difference between the interventions in the neonatal sepsis rate. These findings also show that induction of labor did not substantially affect most of the secondary outcomes measured by the researchers. Given these results and those of their meta-analysis, the researchers conclude that, in women whose pregnancy is complicated by PPROM late in pregnancy, induction of labor does not substantially improve the outcome for either the woman or her baby compared to expectant management.
Please access these web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001208.
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth (in English and Spanish); its News Moms Need blog contains a post on PPROM
Tommy's is a nonprofit organization that funds research and provides information on the causes and prevention of miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidelines on the diagnosis, investigation, and management of PPROM are available (in English and Russian)
Information about the PPROMEXIL trial is available
Personal stories about PPROM are available on the Austprem web site, a non-profit organization that provides information about prematurity and support for parents of premature babies in Australia
MedlinePlus provides links to other information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)