Preterm premature rupture of the membranes (PPROM) is responsible for one-third of all preterm births and affects 120,000 pregnancies in the United States each year. Effective treatment relies on accurate diagnosis and is gestational age dependent. The diagnosis of PPROM is made by a combination of clinical suspicion, patient history and some simple tests. PPROM is associated with significant maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality from infection, umbilical cord compression, placental abruption and preterm birth. Subclinical intrauterine infection has been implicated as a major aetiological factor in the pathogenesis and subsequent maternal and neonatal morbidity associated with PPROM. The frequency of positive cultures obtained by transabdominal amniocentesis at the time of presentation with PPROM in the absence of labour is 25–40%. The majority of amniotic fluid infection in the setting of PPROM does not produce the signs and symptoms traditionally used as diagnostic criteria for clinical chorioamnionitis. Any evidence of infection by amniocentesis should be considered carefully as an indication for delivery. Documentation of amniotic fluid infection in women who present with PPROM enables us to triage our therapeutic decision making rationally. In PPROM, the optimal interval for delivery occurs when the risks of immaturity are outweighed by the risks of pregnancy prolongation (infection, abruption and cord accident). Lung maturity assessment may be a useful guide when planning delivery in the 32- to 34-week interval. A gestational age approach to therapy is important and should be adjusted for each hospital's neonatal intensive care unit. Antenatal antibiotics and corticosteroid therapies have clear benefits and should be offered to all women without contraindications. During conservative management, women should be monitored closely for placental abruption, infection, labour and a non-reassuring fetal status. Women with PPROM after 32 weeks of gestation should be considered for delivery, and after 34 weeks the benefits of delivery clearly outweigh the risks.