Premature births may be associated with the presence of chemicals in the vagina

Vladimir Nenov/EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm

Vladimir Nenov/EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm

This study establishes a link between the presence of chemicals in the vagina and premature births.

HEALTH – “An additional way to reduce prematurity in the world. » This is how the head of the obstetrics and gynecology department at the Antoine Béclère hospital in Clamart, Alexandra Benachi, describes this new study which establishes a correlation between the presence of chemical products in vagina and deliveries premature. Chemical substances that are also found in some cosmetics and hygiene products.

The study was published in the scientific journal The microbiology of nature on January 12, 2023. To reach their conclusions they must Columbia University scientists followed 232 women in their second trimester of pregnancy until the birth of their child. They are 80 for having experienced a premature birth – which happens before the 37th week pregnancy.

The researchers paid particular attention to “vaginal metabolome” of the women they followed. These are the set of small molecules – called metabolites – found in a part of the body. 700 different metabolites have been identified.

Some were particularly high among women who had experienced a premature birth. “Many of these metabolites are chemicals that are not produced by the human body or microbes”explains in a communicated Professor Tal Korem, who participated in the study.

No causal relationship has yet been established

But for Alexandra Benachi, “the fact that vaginal metabolites are associated with prematurity is not new”. She insists and is reassuring: “It is a connection, but we cannot say that there is a causal connection. It is not because there are metabolites that the patient will give birth prematurely. »

The causes of prematurity are actually several: “Uterine malformations, infections, multiple pregnancies, some elderly patients who are more prone to develop pathologies…” However, she considers this association interesting to study.

However, according to Professor Tal Korem, the source of these metabolites remains unknown, though “everything could be found in cosmetics and hygiene products”. According to him, the results of the study indicate that “We need to take a closer look at whether common environmental exposures actually drive preterm births and, if so, where these exposures come from”.

Reduce prematurity

The idea is to reduce the number of premature births because they involve risks. “The good news is that if these chemicals is to blame, it may be possible to limit these potentially dangerous exposures”suggests the professor.

The presence of these substances outside the human body can also help predict premature births, according to Professor Tal Korem: “Our findings show that vaginal metabolites have the potential to predict months in advance which women are likely to give birth prematurely.”

Investigation national perinatal of 2022, carried out by INSERM and Santé Publique France, tells us that the number of premature babies remained stable between 2016 and 2021, around 7%. “We should be able to do better and reduce prematurity”says Alexandra Benachi.

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