Vaginal Microbiome 101
Although not oft en considered in fertility or reproductive issues, the vaginal microbiome impacts reproductive health, fertility, urinary tract health, immune function, tissue integrity, baby’s microbiome and so much more. The adult vaginal microbiome is largely composed of various strain of lactobacilli, some being more beneficial than other. A lack of lactobacillus species have been associated with an increased risk of adverse health outcomes. The unique composition of the vaginal microbiome depends on many factors such as: number of previous pregnancies, gut and oral microbiome, nutrients status, hormone levels, sexual practices, stress and more.
What does a healthy vaginal microbiome look like?
Odour: it should be neutral. A little bit of odour after a workout is normal, but you shouldn’t be able to smell it ordinarily. Discharge: should be white, clear, a little cloudy or egg white consistency depending on where you’re at in your cycle. Comfortability: you shouldn’t feel excess heat, itch, dryness or irritation. Diversity: healthy vaginal microbiomes are actually surprisingly undiverse. Usually lactobacilli dominant and contain only a handful of species. pH: should be between 3.6-4.5. We want that area to be on the more acidic side to stop pathogenic bacteria and yeasts from thriving.
Signs of vaginal microbiome imbalance - Itching in the vulval or vaginal tissues - Redness - Discomfort or soreness of the vulva or vagina - Discharge that does not fit the typical ovulation discharge pattern - Discharge that has a fishy, yeast, acidic, or “rotten/off” smell - Recurrent UTIs or vaginal infections (BV, thrush) - Recurrent miscarriages
How does the vaginal microbiome affect hormones and fertility ?
Our vaginal microbiome impacts acidity levels which can impact sperm survival.
Research has shown that those with altered vaginal microbiomes have a higher level of miscarriage, IVF failures and ‘unexplained infertility’.
Vaginal dysbiosis can worsen inflammation via the production of LPS which can contribute to conditions such as #endometriosis and #adenomyosis which in themselves impact fertility.
Other research has also shown that the male and female reproductive microbiome can impact the interaction between the sperm and oocyte.
A 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis finds that women with low-lactobacilli vaginal microbiome composition are at higher risk of preterm birth compared to women with L. Crispatus dominant microbiome compositions.
These are just some of the major ways that microbiome can impact fertility, but essentially our microbes have a role in way more aspects of our health than we can possibly imagine and we are discovering more and more to this all the time. What about the vaginal microbiome in menopause? A natural drop in estrogen causes lactobacilli levels to decrease, and potentially an increase in unfriendly bacteria and can lead to an increase in symptoms. Testing your vaginal microbiome: Testing is quick, private, easy and completely painless! A vaginal microbiome is what we call a functional test, which is different to a vaginal swab that you would have done at a GP - which unforunately aren’t as comprehensive or offer as much detail as the functional tests do - such as levels of inflammation or show levels of healthy beneficial bacteria or be able to identify as many species of not so good bacteria as we can with these tests.
What is tested? -vaginal pH -sexually transmitted infections -beneficial bacteria -pathogenic bacteria -bacterial vaginosis -yeasts and candida
For around $150, it is hugely useful and can give so much information, including why you may not be conceiving or the potential factors contributing to miscarriage or pre term birth. Or, tell us why you are getting reoccuring BV, thrush, UTI’s or if you’re suffering from something like candida.
How does it work?
Your practitioner will arrange a test, and you will be emailed a link to purchases the test, which will then be posted directly to you
The test is completed in the comfort of your own home
After you complete the swab and pH test, place them in the bag provided and return the test via AusPost. (All instructions are included in the test kit)
Your practitioner will receive the results and discuss them with you
You will get a treatment plan to improve your vaginal microbiome, bring back harmony and get to the root cause of symptoms
If you're interested in getting you're vaginal microbiome tested, book an appointment or get in contact via email@example.com