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Bacterial Vaginosis and Prematurity

There are about 4,000,000 babies being born each year in the United States. Close to 10 percent of these newborns (400,000 of them) come into this world prematurely, which means they are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

This is a situation known as "a preterm birth" and is quite important, as a baby born preterm is much more likely than a full-term child to suffer a serious disabling medical complication.

Since these medical complications referred to include cerebral palsy, visual and hearing disabilities, mental retardation, and even death, efforts to reduce the risk for preterm delivery are receiving a lot of attention.

One achievement was to increase the rate of survival for preterm babies. But there is not a similar reduction in the rate of preterm births.

There are numerous factors that may result in a premature baby; these include vaginal infection, smoking, race, age of the mother, and whether the mother had previously had a stillborn or premature baby. Recent studies have shown that a common vaginal infection, Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), is linked to 40 percent of preterm births. Very important to this link is that BV can be successfully treated with oral antibiotics.

Researchers believe that the risk of acquiring BV is associated with routine douching and having multiple sex partners. They recommend that patients who are at high risk for BV should be screened and if necessary, treated.

Three new articles were published in the December 18, 1995 issue of the New England journal that added to the growing amount of evidence showing BV as being associated with preterm delivery of low-birth-weight babies.

One of the studies demonstrated that treatment of the disease during the second trimester would reduce the incidence of preterm delivery.

(Bacterial Vaginosis, Three articles, New England Journal of Medicine, 1995; 333)

(Bacterial Vaginosis and its Link to Preterm Birth, Fact Sheet, Health Mothers, Health Babies)


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