Can bacteria affect the risk of miscarriage?

David MacIntyre, Phillip Bennett, Tom Bourne, Lesley Regan, Raj Rai, Karen Grewal

Scientists are looking at the bacteria that live in the vagina to see if certain types of bacteria can affect pregnancy.

Start: 2016

End: 2019

Why do we need this research?

When miscarriage happens, too often parents are never given a reason why. This needs to change.

There is more and more research exploring how the microorganisms that live on, and in our bodies, can affect pregnancy. We want to find out if bacteria in the womb and vagina play a part in miscarriage.

What’s happening in this project?

There are millions and millions of bacteria living on and in our bodies. Usually, these don’t cause any harm – in fact, many are beneficial, like some of the bacteria that live in our guts.

The different types of bacteria that live in a woman’s vagina, womb and gut naturally change during pregnancy. Our scientists think that these bacteria might be able to shed light on why some miscarriages happen.

To find out how different types of bacteria can affect pregnancy, researchers funded by Tommy’s have recruited over 200 women to their study. These include women attending our general gynaecology clinic, as well as those experiencing bleeding, pain, or miscarriage. The women in the study donate samples of their placenta and the lining of the womb, as well as swabs from the vagina to collect the bacteria living there. 

Our scientists have studied more than 560 vaginal swabs from the participants. So far, the team have found, for the first time, that lower amounts of a type of bacteria called Lactobacillus are connected to increased inflammation in the vagina. In turn, this inflammation may increase the risk of miscarriage.

What difference will this project make?

By looking at how the bacteria in the vagina might affect pregnancy, our researchers hope their work will help us give more women answers to the question of why they have had a miscarriage.

Thanks for your interest in our research

Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. We can keep you updated on ways you can support our work. If you would like to join our fight against baby loss and premature birth, click here.

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