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 womb and placenta to see if certain communities can affect pregnancy.

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.

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. For example, we are encouraged to eat probiotic yoghurt, which contains bacteria that help maintain the natural balance in our guts. There is even evidence that probiotics can protect premature babies from disease. The different types of bacteria that live in our vaginas, wombs and guts naturally change during pregnancy.

To find out how different communities of bacteria can affect pregnancy, we are looking at the placenta and lining of the womb in several groups of women. So far, we have recruited 100 women to our project. These include women simply attending our general gynaecology clinic, to those experiencing bleeding, pain, or miscarriage.

To tell what types of bacteria are present, scientists have collected over 500 samples of placental and endometrial tissue from our study participants. This will let us see what kinds of bacteria live in the womb and placenta, and if any communities of bacteria are linked to having multiple miscarriages.

Our long-term goal is to look at the interactions between the bacteria in the gut, vagina, womb and even the mouth, to see how they might affect pregnancy.

Thanks for your interest in our research

Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for pregnancy complications and loss. Maternal and fetal research is underfunded and we need your support to continue. There are many small and large ways you can support us, find out more here.


This study is fully funded by Tommy's and takes place in a Tommy's centre

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