The vaginal microbiome undergoes many changes during pregnancy, and it has been associated with various afflictions, such as gestational diabetes, low birth weight, necrotizing enterocolitis, and colic. In addition, infection of the uterine cavity is correlated with preterm labor, especially for early preterm labor. For now though, the crucial role of the microbiome during pregnancy remains largely unknown.
The iHMP will define the healthy pregnancy microbiome, and investigate how deviations from the healthy microbiome may contribute to preterm birth and still birth. The iHMP will do a longitudinal study (study spanning the length of the pregnancy and some time after) of 2,000 women, some of whom will be at risk for preterm birth. The women will have their entire microbiomes, not just vaginal microbiomes, examined regularly during the course of pregnancy and thereafter. Other microbiome samples include the placenta, amniotic fluid, umbilical cord, and the child's microbiome as well. This study will measure bacteria, lipids, cytokines, and proteins, which have all been associated with pregnancy disorders. The cohort will consist of women who are racially diverse and have a wide range of ages.
One of the motivations for this project was a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2000 that reviewed intrauterine infection and its link to preterm birth. Preterm birth is most often caused by spontaneous labor or rupture of membranes, and is highly correlated with infection. For more information, follow the link above.