PROBLEM: It is unknown whether the number of vaginal polymorphonuclear leukocytes (vPMNs) of healthy pregnant women changes during pregnancy.
METHOD OF STUDY: We studied 23 women after 14.7 ± 3.6 weeks, 37 women after 25.2 ± 3.1 weeks, and 26 women after 32.9 ± 2.0 weeks of gestation. Numbers of total vPMNs, viable vPMNs, dead vPMNs, percentage viability of vPMNs, and concentrations of IL-8 and elastase activity were determined in vaginal washings.
RESULTS: The vPMNs, including viable and dead vPMNs, significantly increased with advancing gestation from 9.9 ± 8.6 × 105 to 13.1 ± 13.4 × 105, and to 27.1 ± 26.6 × 105 (r=0.315, P < 0.01). Vaginal IL-8 significantly increased with advancing gestation. However, increases in vaginal elastase activity did not occur.
CONCLUSIONS: These results suggested that an increase in vPMNs is an early event, and that the increase in vaginal elastase activity is a late event in relation to the ripening of the uterine cervix.