DOCTOR'S VIEW ARCHIVE
Common Vaginal Infection Can Cause Premature Birth
BETHESDA--A common bacterial condition known as bacterial vaginosis (BV) has been shown (1997) to increase a woman's risk of premature labor and delivery. BV is caused by an imbalance in the bacteria that are normally found in the vagina. It is the most common bacterial infection in women of reproductive age.
Scientists at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that pregnant women who were diagnosed with BV during the second trimester were 40% more likely to give birth to a baby before the 37th week of pregnancy and weighing less than 51/2 pounds than woman who did not have the infection.
In addition to BV, smoking further increased the rate of premature birth by about 40%. Women with a history of a bladder infection also were found to have a greater incidence of premature birth.
The main symptom of BV is a vaginal discharge with a 'fishy' odor. However, as many as 50% of women have no symptoms. Currently, the only treatment is with antibiotics. Several studies are underway to see if antibiotic treatment can decrease the rate of preterm birth in women infected with BV.
For additional information, please visit the Bacterial Vaginosis Center.
Last Editorial Review: 1/9/2003