“….many women have vaginal microbial imbalances, which go untreated or incorrectly treated due to lack of understanding, embarrassment or stigma.”
Similar to the critical role that gut microbes are now understood to play in overall health and wellbeing, there is an unfolding awareness of the delicate and critically important role of the vaginal microbiome (environment) and microbiota (bugs) – and how easily they can become disrupted. This microbial community within the female body is recognised to actively participate in effective immune responses, hormonal regulation and the capacity to conceive. It is also now recognised that the mother to child microbial transfer which occurs during a vaginal birth is a key determinant in infant health – and likely contributes to the lifelong immune function for that child.
A healthy vaginal microbiome is populated mainly by Lactobacillus spp. and depletion or disturbance of these organisms is associated with preterm birth, pelvic inflammatory disease, increased risk and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, infertility, bacterial vaginosis, thrush, vaginitis and vulvodynia. The vaginal environment generally and the microbial balance particularly, is affected by a wide range of factors including; poor diet (especially highly processed, sugar containing), penetrative sex, semen, pH incompatible lubricants, condoms, menstruation, medication, personal care products (especially chemical, antibacterial or fragrance containing), puberty, pregnancy, menopause and general health.
Although it is a robust and beautifully designed part of the body, the heartbreaking and serious truth is that many women have vaginal microbial imbalances, which go untreated or incorrectly treated due to lack of understanding, embarrassment or stigma. Misdiagnosis and self-diagnosis play a part in this, with women and GPs frequently defaulting to an assumption and treatment of thrush; which can fail to address more complex or chronic disturbances.
Be proactive, protective caring of this critically important part of the female body – and seek professional support, if anything doesn’t feel right.