Mothers’ microbes associated with preterm birth risk

A number of microorganisms in the reproductive tract of pregnant women linked to predict preterm births.

Scientists have discovered a new method to determine who is at risk of having a premature baby, by checking the bacterial community that lives in mother’s reproductive tract. As we all know that these tiny organisms are present everywhere around us such as coating door handles, our cell phones.

Even our bodies are loaded with trillions of these microbes such as living on the skin, in the gut, mouth and vagina. Many of these germs play critical roles in human’s health but they may contribute to health problems if they get unbalanced.

Researchers at Stanford University obtained samples from 49 pregnant women from four different body sites – the vagina, the gut, the saliva, and the tooth and gum line. These samples were taken weekly during their pregnancies and monthly after the women delivered their babies. Fifteen of the participants ended up giving birth prematurely.

The study discovered that women with lower level of the vaginal bacteria Lactobacillus had an increased risk of delivering their baby before 37 weeks of gestation. They also found that higher levels of the bacteria Gardenerella and Ureaplasma further raised the risk of preterm births. Lactobacillus is thought to be beneficial to health because it produces Vitamin K and amino acids.

Preterm birth, also known as premature birth, is the birth of a newborn at less than 37 weeks gestational age. The cause is often not known but the risk factors include diabetes, hypertension, tobacco smoking, recurrent vaginal infections and psychological stress. About 15 million preterm babies are born every year around the world. Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children under age 5. IMAGE/


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