Why do some women give birth early and others don’t? March of Dimes researchers are trying to find the answer to this question. A new study has revealed important clues.
The type of bacteria found in a woman’s cervix and vagina during pregnancy may either increase the risk of premature birth or protect against it.
Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland collected cervicovaginal (CV) bacteria from 2,000 women at three different times during their pregnancies. They then analyzed the bacteria. They found that some of the bacteria actually lowered the risk of spontaneous preterm birth. But other types of bacteria increased the chance of preterm birth significantly. The bacteria associated with spontaneous preterm birth, either providing a protective effect or increasing risk, were different between African-American and non-African-American women.
If the study is confirmed, it could mean that targeting CV bacteria may be a new therapy to prevent premature birth. Edward R.B. McCabe, MD, PhD, senior vice president and chief medical officer of the March of Dimes, stated, “From these data, we may learn how to prevent preterm birth either by eliminating the CV bacteria that are associated with an increased risk and/or by enhancing the presence of protective bacteria. This is a promising new area that should become a research priority.”
Learn more about how March of Dimes researchers are working to better understand the causes of premature birth on our website.