|Vol. 2, No. 2 , 1996, Page 6|
"Preemies" are far more likely than full-term babies to suffer neurological damage leading to learning disabilities and serious behavior disorders. Thus, it's not surprising that premature birth is one of the leading risk factors for delinquency and criminality.
What is surprising, however, is new research linking many premature births to a common and easily treated vaginal infection. Two large-scale studies in the New England Journal of Medicine suggest that women suffering from this infection, bacterial vaginosis, are 40 percent more likely to give birth to premature babies than are uninfected women. Two additional large studies, both in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, also point to bacterial vaginosis as a significant cause of premature births.
Risk factors for bacterial vaginosis include young age, unmarried status, poverty, African American ethnicity, having several children, and low educational level. The infection can be treated with common oral antibiotics during pregnancy. One study, by James McGregor et al., found that "the incidence of prematurity was reduced by 50% after using oral clindamycin to treat the genital infection."
"This condition is a preventable cause of preterm birth," Sharon Hillier, author of one of the NEJM articles, says. "Unfortunately, it is not taken very seriously by health care providers."
"Prevention of premature birth by screening and treatment for common genital tract infections: results of a prospective controlled evaluation," James A. McGregor et al., American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vol. 173, No. 1, July 1995.
"The preterm prediction study: significance of vaginal infections," Paul J. Meis et al., American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vol. 173, No. 4, October 1995.
"Curable infection linked to early birth," Science News, Vol. 149, January 13, 1996.