Ecological succession in the vaginal microbiota during pregnancy and birth

M. A. Rasmussen, J. Thorsen, M. G. Dominguez-Bello, M. J. Blaser, M. S. Mortensen, A. D. Brejnrod, S. A. Shah, M. H. Hjelmsø, J. Lehtimäki, U. Trivedi, H. Bisgaard, S. J. Sørensen, J. Stokholm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The mother’s vaginal microbiota represents the first microbes to which a child is exposed when delivered vaginally. However, little is known about the composition and development of the vaginal microbiota during pregnancy and birth. Here, we analyzed the vaginal microbiota of 57 women in pregnancy week 24, 36 and at birth after rupture of membranes but before delivery, and further compared the composition with that of the gut and airways of the 1-week-old child. The vaginal community structure had dramatic changes in bacterial diversity and taxonomic distribution, yet carried an individual-specific signature. The relative abundance of most bacterial taxa increased stepwise from week 24 of pregnancy until birth, with a gradual decline of Lactobacillus. Mother-to-child vertical transfer, as suggested by sharing, was modest, with the strongest transfer being for Clostridiales followed by Lactobacillales and Enterobacteriales. In conclusion, late gestation is associated with an increase in maternal vaginal microbiota diversity, and vaginal bacteria at birth only modestly predict the composition of the neonatal microbiota.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2325-2335
Number of pages11
JournalISME Journal
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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