During pregnancy, labor and delivery, there are typically no tears in the uterus. In certain circumstances, however, the uterus can rupture throughout some or all all its layers, compromising the fetus’ oxygen supply and jeopardizing the mother’s health.
Uterine rupture often leads to severe bleeding, and the baby may even move into the mother’s abdomen when it is time to deliver. Uterine rupture typically happen during a vaginal birth after cesarean section (VBAC) when scars from previous C-sections or uterine or abdominal surgeries tear during labor, though, in 18 percent of cases it occurs when the uterus is unscarred.
A ruptured uterus is an extremely dangerous complication that can occur during pregnancy. If the uterus ruptures, the baby can become severely deprived of oxygen (birth asphyxia) and develop a brain injury called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which can cause seizures, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and developmental delays.
If a uterine rupture occurs when the baby is premature, the birth asphyxia may cause periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), which is a brain injury characterized by death and damage of the brain’s white matter, especially near the ventricles. In PVL, fluid filled cysts may be left behind when the white matter dies.
Although more common in premature babies, PVL can occur in term babies after an insult to the brain. Like hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), periventricular leukomalacia can also cause seizures, cerebral palsy and developmental delays.