The focus of Let Your Vagina’s Microbes Work in Your Favor covered the basics and possible causes of bacterial vaginosis (BV) – inflammation in the vagina due to an overgrowth of bacteria disturbing your vagina’s bacterial balance. Now we’ll dig deeper into how BV varies between women and how it could negatively impact pregnancy and a baby’s health. We’ll also explore daily activities to consider to prevent BV.
The microbiome is the bacteria and fungi that live on and inside your body. The main areas of research are focused on the gut, skin, vagina, oral, and nasal/lung. You have ten times more microbial cells than human cells. That’s a lot! These microorganisms are important because they not only help to keep you alive, but they contribute to your health.
There are exciting and dramatic developments relating to the ecosystem of the vagina. Until recently, researchers considered lactobacillus the main bacteria present in the vagina. Lactobacillus ferments carbohydrates to lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide to help the vagina maintain a low pH. Why is a low pH important? Because it creates more acidity, which prevents trouble-making microbes from flourishing. A vagina’s pH gets out of balance due to decreased acidity, which allows trouble-making microbes to enter and multiply. Our awareness is evolving and adjusting from what was previously thought about the microbes in our bodies.
Until 2001, scientists didn’t consider our internal and external bugs that important, and their understanding was a one-size-fits-all of the vaginal microbiome. Recent research is uncovering that there’s a lot more complexity to the vaginal microbiome (VM) than we’d originally thought. Here are some highlights of recent findings:
- According to research conducted in 2010 by the University of Maryland, the VM differs by race and age, and a woman’s pH can shift within a short period of time.
- Nearly 90 percent of white women and 80 percent of Asian women harbored vaginal microbiomes that were dominated by lactobacillus, while only about 60 percent of Hispanic and black women showed lactobacillus dominance.
- Vaginal pH varies among ethnicities, with Hispanic and black women averaging 5.0 and 4.7, respectively, and Asian and white women averaging 4.4 and 4.2.
- Research conducted in 2012 indicated that a woman’s vaginal microbiome can change in as few as 24 hours.
- Menopausal women’s vaginas have fewer lactobacilli and are more prone to bacterial infections, except if the woman is on hormone replacement therapy.
For as much as we know about how the uterus and female reproductive flow works, the womb and the pathway for arriving into the world still remain a powerful and mysterious portal. There’s a recent trend for babies to arrive into the world through their mom’s belly rather than through their mom’s vagina. C-sections are the most common surgery performed on women; one in three women will have a C-section, and they are so common that in some hospitals in the US, 50 percent of births were C-sections.
A mother’s maternal microbiome plays a vital role in her pregnancy and the long-term health of her baby during pregnancy and delivery . To learn more about how critically important a mother’s bacteria is to her child’s immune system, watch the award winning documentary, Microbirth.
Here are recent and important findings related to a maternal microbiome:
- Different studies have found a link between bacterial vaginosis and second-trimester miscarriage .
- Vaginosis-related microbes are linked in one quarter of all pre-term births, labor prior to thirty-seven weeks. For pre-term births occurring before the twenty-fifth week, 50 percent are linked to vaginosis-related microbes. (Currently, one in eight children are born prematurely.)
- Babies born vaginally have internal bacteria that resembles their mom’s vaginal bacteria. Microbes passed between the mother’s vagina to the baby’s gut assists in a stronger immune system.
- Babies born via C-section, have an internal microbiome that resembles that of their mom’s skin. The babies miss out on the benefits of the mother’s vaginal microbiome. Research indicates that missing out on important microbes from vaginal birth can impact the health of child and is linked to obesity, asthma, allergies, celiac disease, onset type 1 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
- How your baby arrives, vaginally versus C-section can create differences in your baby’s intestinal microbes seven years after delivery.
Balancing Your Va-Jay Jay’s Microbiome If you’re wondering how to keep your vaginal microbiome in balance, here are a few activities to consider.
- Reach out to your doctor and/or a holistic practioner if you suspect you have BV rather than trying to mask an unusual smell.
- Wash your hands thoroughly instead of using antibacterial soaps during pregnancy. Antibacterial soaps tend to have compounds that are not beneficial for pregnant woman and their babies.
- If you happen to get BV, and your doctor wants to prescribe an antibiotic, ask your doctor about using a lactobacilli probiotic orally to treat your BV.
- Douching (Coming up…Douching Doesn’t Let Your Vaginal Microbes Work in Your Favor – Part 3 for eye-opening information about why douching is not exactly working in your microbial favor.)
- Non-healthy diet
- Using vaginal deodorants
- Scented pads and tampons
- Using an IUD (intrauterine device), such as a contraceptive device made from plastic and copper that fits inside the uterus
We’re bombarded with a lot of information of what is supposedly good versus bad for our health. The collective focus and borderline obsession on sanitizing has created a good bug (keep) versus bad bug (get rid of) mentality. When it comes to how your party girl—the vagina—and your other powerful female reproductive organs interact, perhaps it’s time to consider options that maintain a beneficial balance with not only your cells but your microbes too! Suggested Resources:
- Well Adjusted Mama Podcast: One Simple Thing You Can Do to Create a Healthy Baby: Microbiome Health During Pregnancy with Dr. Donna Embree
- What’s in Your Vagina? by Moises Velaaquez-Manoff; Slate Magazine
- My Baby, My Microbiome by Karen Levy
Lorraine Giordano Inspired To Health www.inspiredtohealth.net firstname.lastname@example.org 201.344.6448