Maternal genital tract infections and the associated inflammatory response may contribute to the onset of many cases of preterm labour. Type II phospholipase A2 (PLA2) hydrolyses glycerophospholipids, releasing free fatty acid for conversion into potent biological mediators, such as prostaglandins, which play a significant role in both the onset and progression of human labour and the activation of inflammatory reactions. The aim of this study was to quantify immunoreactive (ir) Type II PLA2 in placenta, amnion and choriodecidua collected from women delivering prematurely or due to histological chorioamnionitis, and to compare levels to those at term. Tissues were assayed for ir Type II PLA2 by ELISA and expressed as ng/mg tissue protein. Ir Type II PLA2 tissue content was significantly higher in preterm (n=26) amnion and choriodecidua, but not in the placenta when compared to tissues obtained at term (n=42). When the data were stratified with respect to labour status, ir Type II PLA2 content was significantly higher in the preterm not-in-labour group (NIL, n=17) than the preterm in labour group (IL, n=9) in the amnion. When the NIL group was analysed with respect to membrane rupture, women who had spontaneously ruptured membranes (n=6) expressed significantly greater ir Type II PLA2 than those that had intact membranes (n=11) in both the amnion and choriodecidua but not in the placenta. No significant difference was observed between the preterm IL group (n=9) and the group with histological chorioamnionitis (n=14). The data obtained in this study support a role for Type II PLA2 in association with spontaneous rupture of membranes.