Probiotics packed with ‘friendly bacteria’ could reduce early birth rates, scientists believe.
They have found that the bugs in a pregnant woman’s body seem to affect whether she goes into labour early.
The finding raises the possibility of mothers-to-be being given a bacterial screening test.
Those deemed to have the wrong mix of bugs could be given drugs or other treatments to cut their odds of giving birth too soon. It may even be possible to create a probiotic tablet because the probiotic yoghurts and drinks in supermarkets lack the necessary concentration of friendly bacteria.
Premature birth is the world’s biggest killer of newborns, claiming the lives of more than one million of the 13million pre-term babies born each year. In Britain, one in 13 babies is born prematurely – defined as before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
Those that survive face a host of health problems, with one in ten developing a permanent disability such as lung disease, cerebral palsy, blindness or deafness. Every extra week in the womb can be beneficial.