It’s pretty much common knowledge that levels of so-called ‘healthy bacteria’ in one’s body can have a huge impact on a person’s overall health. Researchers at Stanford University have published a new study that links low levels of healthy bacteria with an increased risk for preterm labor. In essence, doctors may soon be able to determine a patient’s risk for preterm labor based on the populations of bacteria in her digestive system.

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These ‘good germs’ aid in digestion and immune defenses, as well as a host of other body functions, and when they get out of whack, any number of things can happen. The study illustrates one of the ill effects linked to lower than optimal levels of lactobacillus bacteria: preterm labor. Researchers tracked microbe levels each week through 49 healthy women’s pregnancies, and found that the mothers who went into preterm labor had a different pattern of vaginal bacteria than the others in the study. It seems that bacteria, long thought important for vaginal health, may have an even bigger role to play when it comes to gestation. So far, nobody really knows why.

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These findings are pretty preliminary, and a lot more testing will be needed to explore the connection, but researchers are optimistic that this information might be able to lead to methods for reducing the risk of preterm labor. The first step will be a similar study, this time conducted on a larger and more diverse population of pregnant women. Based on sheer speculation however, it seems possible that if the results hold true for a larger population sample, then probiotics – supplements of healthy bacteria for those who are lacking – might become part of a regimen to reduce premature births.

via Lubbock Online

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