When labor occurs prior to week 40 of gestation, delivery is categorized as a premature birth. While there are a number of reasons, ranging in severity and maternal circumstance that can cause a premature birth, such as pregnancy complications and maternal health risks, maternal bacterial levels can also be a culprit.
When it comes to pregnancy, maternal bacteria can impact a developing fetus’ health, and poor bacterial health can ultimately lead to the newborn developing intellectual or physical disabilities; the infection can also cause premature birth. The most problematic bacterial infections caused by the imbalance in the bacterial levels in a woman’s body occur without her realizing it. This happens when the “bad” bacteria outweigh the “good” bacteria.
Studies have shown that a bacterial infection can lead to the rupturing of membranes, meaning that the amniotic sac breaks too soon causing the woman to go into labor prematurely.
Where Bacterial Infections Come From
Naturally, the vagina has good bacteria called lactobacilli, but there are also some bad bacteria by the name anaerobes. When the two bacteria don’t balance out, anaerobes increase in number, which causes bacterial infections in the vagina. This is one of the most common infections in women who are of childbearing age.
Some of the common causes of bacterial infections include:
- Douching – This is when a person rinses out their vagina with water or any form of cleaning agent. This sometimes messes with the pH levels in the vagina. Douching can also lead to the overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria, which in turn leads to bacterial vaginosis.
- Lack of lactobacilli bacteria – The lactobacilli bacteria are “friendly” bacteria that live in our bodies. If your vagina does not produce enough lactobacilli, then one is prone to a vaginal bacterial infection.
- Having multiple sex partners – According to the Mayo Clinic, this bacterial infection occurs more often than not in women who have either a new or several sexual partners. Doctors are yet to understand the link between the two.
- Medication like antibiotics or cytostatics.
Common Symptoms of a Vaginal Bacterial Infection
About 50 to 70 percent of women with a bacterial infection do not experience any symptoms. However, when the symptoms occur, they include:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge with a very foul smell, like a fishy odor.
- Thin and dull gray or white discharge.
- Itching or vaginal irritation may also occur. However, these conditions rarely occur.
Tips to Prevent and Cure Vaginal Bacterial Infection
1. Use protection when engaging in sexual activities.
2. Do not douche; avoid washing your vagina with soap or any other cleaning agent.
3. Find a way to minimize the irritation by wearing cotton underwear.
If you’re diagnosed with this infection while pregnant, your doctor should prescribe antibiotics that are considered safe during pregnancy.
As we have seen above, certain bacterial levels that can lead to the premature birth of a child are caused when the anaerobes are higher in number than the lactobacilli. So, regular screening while pregnant is highly encouraged, as well as embracing all the preventative measures that will help pregnant women avoid infections that may cause premature birth of their children.