Changes to the microbiological equilibrium in the female genital tract can lead to obstetric complications. In the current issue of the Deutsches Ärzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2011; 108: 81), the working group around Eva-Maria Bitzer investigates a method of screening for such changes.
Among the complications in question are low birthweights and preterm deliveries. To avoid these, in a model project running from 2004 to 2006, pregnant women were asked to self-test their vaginal pH. They were provided with test gloves and asked to carry out the test twice a week between the 12th and the 32nd weeks of gestation. About 19 000 women requested the gloves from their health insurers, and about 7500 of them returned their test documentation.
The researchers expected that pH self-testing would significantly reduce the number of premature births. However, the effect of the vaginal examination turned out to be smaller than previous studies had suggested. It is possible that the women were contacted too late on in their pregnancy, and for this reason the authors make a plea for starting the screening earlier.