Why is the vaginal microbiome important for fertility?

This is a whole new area of science but studies show that a healthy vaginal microbiome can be linked to positive fertility outcomes. Research has shown that the dominance of lactobacillus (the good microbes) in the vagina plays a vital role in fertility outcomes. Women with a dominant lactobacillus have a higher success rate in pregnancy. Studies have also shown this to be true for people going through IVF and for those trying to conceive naturally. There has also been shown a link between vaginal microbiome and the risk for risk for preterm birth and miscarriage. A recent study from Tommys suggests there is a link and highlighted the importance of good Vaginal Health. Therefore, we  recommend investigating further, if you’re struggling to conceive and as part of preparation for a healthy conception and pregnancy.

What is the vaginal microbiome?

The vaginal microbiome is the term used for the collection of microbes that live within the vagina. A healthy vaginal microbiome is one where the good microbes can keep the disruptive ones in check, preventing them from growing out of control and causing an infection. A healthy balanced microbiome has been linked to a lower risk of reproductive difficulties as we discussed above and also reduces the risks for vaginal infections and STIs.

What causes the vaginal microbiome to be out of balance?

Hygiene: always wipe from front to back and make sure you’re changing your period products regularly and washing your hands

Underwear: thongs, synthetic fabrics can all cause infection and irritation. Cotton pants are always best!

Sex: (oral, anal, vaginal) it can all alter the pH so make you more susceptible to the bad microbes. Sex toys also, if not properly cleaned can be problematic. If you’re trying to rebalance and address this barrier methods during sex can help the good microbes repopulate and regain balance.

Soaps:  the vagina doesn’t need any soaps or douches to clean, it does this itself and products alter the pH, which again doesn’t promote the good microbes.

Hormonal changes: menstrual cycles, peri-menopause, menopause, pregnancy all involve hormonal changes, which can both positively and negatively impact our vaginal microbiome.

Antibiotics: unfortunately the good microbes and the bad ones get wiped with antibiotics so it’s important to repopulate after a course to prevent any imbalances afterwards.

What are the symptoms of an unbalanced vaginal microbiome?

  • Repeat thrush
  • Bacterial Vaginosis
  • Inflammation/discomfort
  • Redness, itching, soreness
  • Unusual discharge (thick white, green, grey, watery)
  • Smelly discharge
  • Having PCOS
  • Fertility struggles
  • Miscarriage
  • Preterm birth

How to test your vaginal microbiome?

There are lots of companies out there who now offer testing. We mostly work with Invivo and can help organise testing, results interpretation and treatment plans. We usually suggest this as part of preparation for natural fertility, IUI and IVF.  Hannah is currently studying this area further with a 6 months Vagiversity course with the vaginal health expert Moira Bradfield. Please do get in touch if you would like to find out more about how we can support your Vaginal Health and your fertility.

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