Maternal microbiomes in preterm birth: Recent progress and analytical pipelines

Semin Perinatol. 2017 Nov;41(7):392-400. doi: 10.1053/j.semperi.2017.07.010. Epub 2017 Aug 18.


Worldwide, 10% of babies are born preterm, defined as birth before 37 weeks' gestation. We have had little success in developing strategies to prevent preterm births, the majority of which are due to infection or are idiopathic. An emerging hypothesis is that the maternal microbiome-the bacteria that inhabit the mother's body and play vital functions in normal health-contributes to the etiology of preterm birth. Here, we highlight the latest data revealing correlations between preterm birth and maternal intestinal, vaginal, cervical, and placental microbiomes. Additionally, we describe the most commonly used comparative microbiome analysis methods and highlight important issues to consider when conducting such studies.

Keywords: 16S rRNA profiling; Cervical microbiome; Placenta; Vagina.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Cervix Uteri / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology*
  • Microbiota* / immunology
  • Placenta / microbiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Premature Birth / microbiology
  • Premature Birth / prevention & control*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Reproductive Health
  • Vagina / microbiology*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S