Have you heard of the vaginal microbiome?
The human body is home to various ecosystems of microorganisms that play crucial roles in our overall health and well-being. One such ecosystem exists within the female reproductive system and is known as the ‘vaginal microbiome’. In this blog, we will delve into the world of the vaginal microbiome, exploring what it is, why it's important, and the important role it plays in women's reproductive health.
What is the Vaginal Microbiome?
The vaginal microbiome refers to the community of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, that inhabit the vaginal environment. Many different types of these tiny organisms live there, but Lactobacillus is the most common one. Together, these microorganisms make the vagina a healthy and balanced place to live.
A healthy vaginal microbiome is made up of diverse and abundant microbes and bacteria, however, various factors can cause a shift in the balance of the vaginal microbiome which can allow the growth of pathogenic microbes. This is called 'vaginal dysbiosis'.
Why is a healthy vaginal microbiome Important?
The vaginal microbiome serves a variety of vital functions that are crucial to a woman's health.
Maintenance of pH Balance: The vaginal pH level is normally acidic, and the vaginal microbiome plays a key role in maintaining this acidity. This low pH helps to maintain a healthy environment that discourages the overgrowth of pathogenic organisms.
Protection Against Pathogens: One of the primary roles of the vaginal microbiome is to act as a barrier against harmful pathogens. Lactobacilli produce lactic acid, creating an acidic environment that prevents the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi. This protective barrier helps prevent infections such as bacterial vaginosis, and yeast infections.
Supporting Fertility: A balanced vaginal microbiome is essential for women trying to conceive. Good bacteria in the vagina help sperm stay alive, which makes it more likely for fertilization to happen.
What Role Does the Vaginal Microbiome Play in Reproductive Health?
The vaginal microbiome plays a vital role in reproductive health in many different ways.
Pregnancy: During pregnancy, the vaginal microbiome can influence a woman's risk of complications such as pre-term birth. An imbalance in the microbiome, specifically a reduction of Lactobacilli, can increase the risk of infection and inflammation potentially leading to preterm labour.
Infertility: An imbalanced vaginal microbiome can negatively affect fertility. It can lead to inflammation and disrupt the delicate hormonal balance required for ovulation and implantation. People struggling with infertility can often find that restoring a healthy vaginal microbiome is a crucial step in their journey towards conceiving.
Vaginal Health: The vaginal microbiome also plays a role in preventing conditions such as bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections. These conditions can cause discomfort, pain, and itching, affecting a person’s overall quality of life.
Sexual Health: A healthy vaginal microbiome is essential for maintaining sexual health. Imbalances can lead to increased vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and chronic pelvic pain.
In summary, the vaginal microbiome is a vital part of women's reproductive health. Its balance of microorganisms contributes to a healthy vaginal environment, protection against infections, and support for fertility. An imbalanced vaginal microbiome can lead to a range of reproductive health issues, including 'vaginal dysbiosis'.
To learn more about vaginal dysbiosis, read our latest blog.
Current Studies to advance knowledge:
Researchers continue to explore the intricacies of the vaginal microbiome, paving the way for potential interventions and therapies that could improve women's reproductive health and overall well-being. In one of our recent women’s health studies, Atlantia is looking at the effect of a Vaginal Microbiome Transplant on vaginal dysbiosis in healthy women. If you want to know more, you can click here.