Norwegian scientists have found that by calculating the benefits of HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccination, it may even reduce the number of pre-term births.
Chronic HPV infections can lead to cellular changes in the cervix that can be a pre-stage to cervical cancer.
Surgical treatment of these pre-stages gives an increased risk of pre-term birth in subsequent pregnancies.
And as the HPV-vaccine can prevent pre-stages of cervical, it can even prevent pre-term births.
In the new study, Katrine D. Sjoborg and Anne Eskild calculated how many pre-term deliveries could be avoided by systematic HPV-vaccination.
For the calculations, the researchers took into account the proportion of pregnant women treated with conisation (surgical removal of a part of cervix), proportion with pre-term births among women who have had conisation compared those who have not had it.
They also considered the proportion of conisations that could be prevented by HPV-vaccination, as well as the proportion of fertile women who are HPV-vaccinated.
Using figures from Europe and North-America, the study results indicated that if 2 percent of pregnant women are treated with conisation, between 60 and 220 pre-term births per 100 000 births could be caused by surgical treatment.
Nearly 60 percent of these may be prevented by the HPV-vaccine, assuming that vaccination coverage is 90 percent. This means that 35-128 pre-term births per 100 000 births could be avoided.
If 4 percent of pregnant women are treated with conisation, 70 to 257 pre-term births per 100 000 births could be avoided.
The study was not aimed to state an exact figure of how many pre-term births could be prevented by HPV-vaccination, but to illustrate potential benefits in this field.
Pre-term birth can cause serious conditions in the child. Every case that can be prevented could save suffering for each child and their family.
Still, there is a proven link between conisation and shorter pregnancy duration. HPV-vaccination can therefore have an important effect on prevention of extremely pre-term births.
The study has been published in Acta Obstretica et Gynecologica.