You hear a lot about the bacteria living in your gut and how important that is for your health and fertility. But, you are likely much less familiar with the bacteria living in your vagina aka the vaginal microbiome. And trust me, you want to know your vaginal microbiome; it is a door to empowerment and informed decision making. Your vaginal microbiome is crucial for your health. It affects everything from your ability to fight infections, likelihood of you contracting STDs, getting pregnant, miscarrying and even developing certain cancers.
What is the vaginal microbiome
The vaginal microbiome refers to the various microscopic beings living around the vagina. These include:
Although there are several different types of bacteria living in the vagina Lactobacilli are the most important. Have you heard about how the vagina is self-cleaning? Well, that’s thanks to the Lactobacilli. Lactobacilli are the gate keepers to your vagina; they produce lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide that help regulate the pH of the vagina keeping it at about 3.8-4.5. The acidic environment makes the vagina inhospitable for harmful pathogens like E.coli, Steph and Candida. Lactobacilli are also the good guys responsible for fighting infections like thrush and BV.
Having a vaginal microbiome dominated by Lactobacilli can improve various vaginal complaints including:
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Aerobic vaginitis (AV)
- Preterm birth
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Recurrent yeast infections
- Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Skin irritations, itching, and burning
- Painful sex
There are different types of Lactobacilli that can dominate your vagina. Although they all belong to the same family each one has unique traits which means depending on the type of Lactobacilli dominating your vagina you will have different amounts of protection.
Why knowing your vaginal microbiome is important
According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), 84% of women with an imbalance within the vaginal microbiome are asymptomatic. This lack of knowledge can cause long-term problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can result in reproduction issues or cervical cancer.
Having higher levels of lactobacilli has been linked to lower risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as PID.
A newly published study by a team at UCL has also found that women with less lactobacilli in their vaginal microbiome may be at greater risk of ovarian cancer.
Emerging evidence suggests that the vaginal microbiome composition may also impact pregnancy outcomes. It seems that having low levels of lactobacilli may increase risk of miscarriage and preterm birth.
Vaginal microbiome assessments should be offered to all women of reproductive age
Knowing the protective impact of the vaginal microbiome against infections and fertility complications make it really important for women to have an annual check of the vaginal health. It’s also useful to take note of any changes in sensations, odours, and recurrent infections. All these factors are red flags that you may have a microbial imbalance in the vagina.
If you want to get an insight into your vaginal health and microbiome, consider a ScreenMe vaginal health test, which comes with
- A report from PhD scientists and tailored nutrition,
- Lifestyle and supplement recommendations to get control of your sexual and reproductive health.
The vaginal microbiome assessment gives you everything you need to safely take a vaginal swab from the privacy of your home.
All vaginal samples are analysed with 16s rRNA sequence technology. ScreenMe scientists and nutritionists then break down the analysis of the microbiome into results you can understand and guidance you can follow to make improvements in your sexual and reproductive health.
ScreenMe follows the general vaginal community state types (CSTs) as recommended by leading gynaecologists and specialists of the vaginal microbiome. Using the insight we provide you and your physicians and fertility experts can make educated decisions about your health and future fertility.
Take control of your vagina today. Find out if you have the right amount of lactobacilli in your vagina, what community state type you have and what you can do improve your vaginal health.