Researchers have discovered that bacteria in a pregnant woman’s body could be the link to a premature birth.
According to a new study, pregnant women with lower levels of bacteria called Lactobacillus in the vagina had an increased risk of preterm birth whereas women with higher levels of this same type of bacteria were less likely to have a premature birth, according to the Market Business.
On top of the women having lower levels of Lactobacillus researchers also found a higher amount of two other species, Gardnerella and Ureaplasma, that were also connected to them having an even higher risk of preterm labor.
As of right now, these results are being tested in other populations of women. According to the study author, Dr. David Relman, if these further tests prove the same, then the measuring of vaginal bacteria could become the standard in determining who could be at a higher risk of preterm labor.
“The first possible application is to use high-risk features in the vaginal microbiome as a marker, as a diagnostic tool to identify women early in pregnancy who are destined to have a higher risk of preterm labor,” Relman said.
A preterm birth is considered anywhere before 37 weeks of pregnancy which includes about 11 percent of pregnancies worldwide.
It is still not clear, without further research, if the vaginal bacteria contributes to causing a woman to go into labor early. The other possibility is that other factors could cause premature birth could also cause changes in the vaginal bacterial community.
During the study the researchers examined bacterial communities weekly in 49 women who were aged 18 and older. The monitoring took place both while they were pregnant and after they gave birth. Of this group of women, 15 delivered preterm babies.
At this time it is still not completely clear how the shift in bacteria happens. But the researches did say that an altered community of vaginal bacteria after delivery could affect a woman’s risk of future preterm births. They did conclude that more research is needed in order to confirm any findings.