Even outside of pregnancy, your vagina operates as its own ecosystem, where natural microbes consistently uphold balance. When the balance is off, it is usually from an external influence and you might experience uncomfortable conditions such as yeast infections. Imbalance can be caused by sexual intercourse, menstruation, and vaginitis. While such imbalance is bothersome on its own, it could actually cause serious problems if it comes on during pregnancy. Specifically, bacterial vaginosis has been proven to cause preterm labor, which can lead to many other serious issues.

Bacterial vaginosis is an imbalance of the naturally occurring bacteria in the vagina, called flora. The cause of bacterial vaginosis is not entirely certain, but multiple sex partners and douching have both been associated with it. It is also the most common vaginal infection in women.

Studies show that women with bacterial vaginosis are more likely to deliver their babies early, or to deliver babies with a low birth weight. The most effective way to prevent this is to be tested for vaginosis, or any vaginal pH imbalance, as early on in the pregnancy as possible, if not before. Women who start treatment before 20 weeks gestation tend to prevent the preterm birth, while women who diagnose it later than that cannot alter the effects with treatment. Treatment could include antibiotics, or clindamycin, which has proven to be the most effective in delaying delivery time. Preterm delivery can have countless negative side effects, including learning disabilities throughout the child’s life.

Clearly, ensuring that you have a proper microbial balance in your vagina prior to and throughout pregnancy is important. While some pregnancy conditions that have negative side effects on a child are difficult and costly to treat, bacterial vaginosis is not so. Treating it early could save your child from numerous lifelong problems.

GG Donders et al: Predictive Value for Preterm Birth of Abnormal Vaginal Flora, Bacterial Vaginosis and Aerobic Vaginitis During the First Trimester of Pregnancy. International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Volume 116 Issue 10 pp. 1315-1324 September 2009