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You’ve probably heard about your gut microbiome and the importance of keeping it healthy – but you may not know that your vagina is home to a delicate balance of flora and bacteria, too.
Maintaining a balanced vaginal microbiome is essential for your general health and well-being, and more recently, research has found that it also plays an important role when it comes to fertility and conception.
Together with midwife fertility expert Zita West, we answer your questions about your personal vaginal microbiome, including what it can tell you when you’re trying to conceive.
Vaginal microbiome and fertility
Fertility expert Zita West tells us that the vaginal microbiome can also have important links with fertility, especially for implantation. She explains studies have shown that the chances of IVF treatment working as it should are higher if your vaginal microbiome and reproductive tract are happy and healthy.
Watch the full video above with Zita West, as she outlines everything below, and more:
- How your vaginal microbiome is connected with fertility
- How probiotics work and when to take them when starting an IVF cycle
- How to test your vaginal microbiome
- Tips and tricks for looking after a balanced vaginal microbiome
Read on to learn more about how you can test your vaginal microbiome and identify imbalances, why this matters for conception, as well as some simple changes you can make to easily improve your own vaginal flora.
What is vaginal microbiome?
The vaginal microbiome, also known as vaginal flora, refers to the diverse ecosystem of bacteria, viruses and fungi that reside inside the vagina. This ecosystem helps to keep the reproductive tract healthy and happy, as well as keeping its pH-level balanced.
While the specific types of bacteria present in the vaginal microbiome can differ between individuals, a “healthy” one is mostly dominated by a type of bacteria called Lactobacillus.
Is my microbiome imbalanced?
When these bacteria in the vaginal microbiome become imbalanced, yeast infections like thrush, and other common infections Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) can occur. Some signs of imbalance include discharge, itching, burning, painful sex, and even recurrent urinary infections.
It is not always easy to identify the cause of these irritations, but here are some common triggers of vaginal microbiome imbalance that can play a role.
Sex can sometimes result in the introduction of new micro-bacteria into the vagina, which can destabilise the balance of your vaginal flora. Further, using lubricants with flavourings and sex toys can also have a similar effect. It can be a good idea to use a natural lubricant instead.
Lifestyle and diet
Smoking and drinking a lot of alcohol, as well as consuming highly processed foods and not getting enough fibre can contribute to a depleted vaginal microbiome. Also, hygiene and intimate health products like soaps and body washes can disrupt your vaginal flora if they’re not properly pH-balanced. Have a read of products to avoid for a healthy vagina to learn more about the do’s and don’ts.
Those who have periods may find that they are more prone to vaginal infections during the luteal phase; just before or around the beginning of menstruation. This is due to hormonal shifts going on in the body at this time.
Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed to treat urinary and reproductive tract infections, but (unfortunately!) also tend to deplete the vaginal microbiome, if taken over long periods of time.
How to improve vaginal microbiome
Everybody is different, and everybody has a different personal vaginal microbiome.
But, the health of your vaginal flora can be improved over time with various strategies, including maintaining good general hygiene, making gentle lifestyle changes to minimize stress, and avoiding smoking and alcohol. Eating a healthy, colourful diet, staying well hydrated, and exercising when you can are also essential.
Also, if you are trying to conceive, studies indicate that Lactobacillus vaginal or oral probiotics in particular have the potential to restore the vaginal microbiome. So, taking a vaginal microbiome-targeted supplement like Femceive a few months before a fresh IVF cycle may lead to improved fertility and pregnancy outcomes.
Ready to give your vaginal microbiome a boost? Get an exclusive 10% off the Zita West fertility supplements range – including the vaginal microbiome-targeted probiotic Femceive. Head over to zitawest.com and use code TRB10 at checkout.