The role of inflammation and infection in preterm birth

Semin Reprod Med. 2007 Jan;25(1):21-39. doi: 10.1055/s-2006-956773.


Inflammation has been implicated in the mechanisms responsible for preterm and term parturition, as well as fetal injury. Out of all of the suspected causes of preterm labor and delivery, infection and/or inflammation is the only pathological process for which both a firm causal link with preterm birth has been established and a molecular pathophysiology defined. Inflammation has also been implicated in the mechanism of spontaneous parturition at term. Most cases of histopathological inflammation and histological chorioamnionitis, both in preterm and term labor, are sub-clinical in nature. The isolation of bacteria in the amniotic fluid, known as microbial invasion of the amniotic cavity, is a pathological finding; the frequency of which is dependent upon the clinical presentation and gestational age. This article reviews the role of inflammation in preterm and term parturition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amnion / microbiology
  • Amniotic Fluid / microbiology
  • Amniotic Fluid / virology
  • Chorioamnionitis / microbiology
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Female
  • Fetal Death / etiology
  • Fetal Diseases / etiology
  • Fetal Membranes, Premature Rupture / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Infections / complications*
  • Infections / microbiology
  • Inflammation / complications*
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / etiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Receptors, Immunologic


  • Cytokines
  • DNA, Viral
  • Receptors, Immunologic