The microbiome of a woman's reproductive tract may predict preterm birth

August 17, 2015, March of Dimes Foundation
Pregnancy
Pregnancy test. Credit: public domain

The microbiomes in the reproductive tracts of pregnant women who later had a baby born too soon are significantly different from those of women who delivered full term.

The microbiome, a community of microorganisms on and in the body, is an emerging area of research that may help explain health issues as different as , asthma and .

Researchers at the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University took weekly samples of the microorganisms from the teeth and gums, saliva, reproductive tract, and stool from 49 . They found little change in the bacterial communities in each woman, week to week at each location. But they did find that microbial communities in the reproductive tracts of who delivered their babies too soon were different from those of women who delivered full term. Those differences were found early in the pregnancies and tended to persist throughout the pregnancies.

"These findings may help us screen women and identify and predict those who are more likely to have a baby born too soon," said David Relman, MD, a professor of microbiology, immunology, and of medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the lead investigator for the research center on this project.

Preterm birth is the number one killer of newborns and serious gaps exist between racial and ethnic groups. More than 450,000 babies are born too soon in the U.S. and the national preterm birth rate is worse than that of most other high-resource countries, the March of Dimes says. Worldwide, 15 million babies are born preterm, and more than one million die due to complications of an early birth. Babies who survive an early birth face serious and lifelong health problems, including breathing problems, jaundice, vision loss, cerebral palsy and intellectual delays.

The research paper "Temporal and Spatial Variation of the Human Microbiota During Pregnancy" was published Aug. 17 in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers also found that the patterns of women's microbiomes changed immediately after they delivered their babies, and did not revert back to pre-pregnancy patterns in some cases until at least a year later.

"This might explain why women with closely spaced pregnancies have a higher risk of preterm birth," said Dr. Relman. The March of Dimes is raising $75 million to support its five prematurity research centers. These unique, transdisciplinary centers bring together the brightest minds from many diverse disciplines—geneticists, molecular biologists, epidemiologists, engineers, computer scientists, and others—to work together to find answers to prevent premature birth. In addition to the research center at Stanford in California, the March of Dimes established a research center with a group of universities and hospitals in Ohio, and centers at the University of Pennsylvania, at Washington University in St. Louis, and at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and Duke University.

"Our nationwide network of prematurity research centers is critical to understanding the unknown causes of preterm birth. This new finding puts in place another piece toward solving the much larger puzzle of preterm birth," says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, President of the March of Dimes.

Explore further: March of Dimes calls for 50 percent reduction in preterm births by 2030

More information: Temporal and spatial variation of the human microbiota during pregnancy, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1502875112

Related Stories

March of Dimes calls for 50 percent reduction in preterm births by 2030

November 3, 2014
The March of Dimes is calling for a nationwide effort to reduce U.S. preterm births to 5.5 percent of all live births by 2030. Seven other developed countries already have preterm birth rates below 6 percent, and 15 have ...

Higher risk of preterm delivery for women born preterm

May 19, 2015
Women who were born preterm have a higher risk of giving birth to preterm children, according to a study, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, from researchers of the CHU Sainte-Justine and the University of ...

US preterm birth rate hits healthy people 2020 goal seven years early

November 6, 2014
The national preterm birth rate fell to 11.4 percent in 2013 – the lowest in 17 years—meeting the federal Healthy People 2020 goal seven years early. Despite this progress, the U.S. still received a "C" on the 7th annual ...

Study finds variation of the interval between first and second pregnancy

February 2, 2015
In a study to be presented on Feb. 5 in an oral concurrent session at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's annual meeting, The Pregnancy Meeting in San Diego, researchers will report that the variation of interval from ...

US preterm birth rate under 12 percent, the lowest level in nearly a decade

November 17, 2011
The nation's preterm birth rate slipped under 12 percent for the first time in nearly a decade, the fourth consecutive year it declined, potentially sparing tens of thousands of babies the serious health consequences of an ...

Recommended for you

Blood test may identify gestational diabetes risk in first trimester

August 16, 2018
A blood test conducted as early as the 10th week of pregnancy may help identify women at risk for gestational diabetes, a pregnancy-related condition that poses potentially serious health risks for mothers and infants, according ...

Artificial placenta created in the laboratory

August 14, 2018
In order to better understand important biological membranes, it is necessary to explore new methods. Researchers at Vienna University of Technology (Vienna) have succeeded in creating an artificial placental barrier on a ...

The inequalities of prenatal stress

August 14, 2018
Exposure to an acute stress in utero can have long-term consequences extending into childhood – but only among children in poor households, according to a new Stanford study that looked at the long-term impact of acute, ...

Better studies needed on effectiveness of fertility awareness-based methods for contraception

August 10, 2018
A new systematic review provides the most comprehensive assessment to date on the scientific evidence estimating the effectiveness of various fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs) for contraception. "Effectiveness of ...

Inducing labor at 39 weeks reduces likelihood of C-sections

August 8, 2018
Inducing labor in healthy first-time mothers in the 39th week of pregnancy results in lower rates of cesarean sections compared with waiting for labor to begin naturally at full term, according to a multicenter study funded ...

Three-dimensional model of human placenta developed

August 3, 2018
The placenta is the organ connecting mother and embryo. Its main functions are the exchange of nutrients, gases and metabolic products and the production of hormones and other substances essential for embryonic development. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.