New Finding to Assess Preterm Delivery Risk

April 13, 2018

Premature birth is a leading cause of neonatal mortality. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2016 one in 10 babies was born early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.1 Often a woman’s risk for preterm birth is not identified until later in pregnancy. But new research may be changing the way that doctors and health care providers assess and respond to preterm delivery risk.

Current Method for Assessing Preterm Delivery Risk

A history of preterm birth is a main risk factor for future preterm delivery. But for first-time moms, this history just doesn’t exist. Doctors also look at pre-pregnancy health, wellness and nutrition to evaluate preterm delivery risk. Having a mother or sister who gave birth to a low birth-weight baby or having a personal history of diabetes or preeclampsia are other considera- tions.

All of these factors by themselves would not necessarily change your prenatal care. Your healthcare provider may order certain tests later in pregnancy to keep an eye on your risk of preterm delivery. But existing physical and biochemical markers for predicting preterm birth risks are mostly suited for application at mid- to late-pregnancy stages.2

This means that there is a short window between diagnosis and delivery for any corrective measures to be taken. Your healthcare provider’s options for adopting appropriate intervention strategies may be limited.

Vaginal Microbiome & Preterm Delivery Risk

Many women, including first-time moms, deliver their babies prematurely without any known risk factors. Because of this, researchers have been looking for a predictive biomarker for preterm birth. Recent studies show that we may be getting closer. Researchers may have found a correlation between preterm delivery and the composition of the vaginal microbiome during the first trimester.2

The vaginal microbiome is the community of microorganisms that populate a woman’s vagina. There may be significant differences between the first-trimester vaginal microbiome obtained from women with full-term and preterm pregnancies.2 These findings indicate a potential use for the vaginal microbiome as a diagnostic tool in evaluating preterm delivery risks in early pregnancy. Researchers believe that this method enables early and highly accurate prediction of preterm delivery outcomes that can eventually be deployed by healthcare providers for preterm-birth risk assessment.2

Reducing Preterm Delivery Risk

These findings have potentially huge implications in the fight against neonatal deaths due to preterm birth. However this new diagnostic tool is still a ways away, and women need to take their health into their own hands. Women who are thinking about becoming pregnant can reduce the risk for preterm birth by avoiding drugs and alcohol, receiving prenatal care and monitoring their blood pressure.2 In light of new research, it may also be beneficial for women to take a probiotic to enhance the beneficial bacteria of her microbiome and aid in species diversity. In addition, eating fresh fruits and vegetables helps to support a healthy microbiome.

Women should talk to a doctor about how to best prepare for pregnancy and make an effort to learn more about prenatal care. Part of supporting positive pregnancy outcomes is proper diet and nutrition. The Prenate® Vitamin Family offers a line of prenatal vitamins with folic acid that helps fill nutritional gaps. Each contains 1 mg folate as a blend of bioavailable L-methylfolate and traditional folic acid. This nutrient is critical in early pregnancy to a baby’s long- term and healthy development. Talk to your doctor to see which Prenate® is right for you.

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