Prolonged exposure to infection appears to influence fetal/neonatal development. We characterize the relationship between histologic patterns of inflammation and microorganism recovery from the placentas of live born infants delivered before the 28th postmenstrual week. The subamniotic parenchyma of 835 placentas delivered by cesarean section were cultured and evaluated for specific histologic patterns of inflammation in a blinded fashion. Cases with prolonged membrane rupture were excluded. Microorganisms were recovered from 41% of placentas. Microorganisms found more frequently in placentas with high-grade chorionic plate inflammation include Actinomyces, Prevotella bivia, Corynebacterium sp., Escherichia coli, Peptostreptococcus magnus, multiple species of Streptococci, and Mycoplasma sp., including Ureaplasma urealyticum. These microorganisms were also associated with fetal vasculitis (neutrophilic infiltration of chorionic plate stem vessels or umbilical cord). Recovery of microorganisms from placental parenchyma is associated with histologic inflammation. The same microorganisms responsible for inciting high-grade chorionic plate inflammation are also most likely to promote fetal inflammation.