When we experience, anxiety can throw off the levels of healthy and unhealthy bacteria in the vagina, known as the pH balance. This may result in a vaginal infection, known as bacterial vaginosis.
How can stress affect a person’s health?
The disturbance in your vaginal ecosystem due to stress can pave the way for several intimate-health and gynecological issues:
When it comes to the modern-day lifestyle, stress is inevitable. Unfortunately, this inevitable stress negatively impacts our health—especially if it persists and is ill-managed. From acne and premature signs of aging to hormonal imbalances and heart-health problems—the hormone cortisol produced from your body’s fight-or-flight response to a stressful situation can immensely damage your health.
But can stress affect your vaginal health?
Stress leads to an increase in the levels of cortisol and other stress hormones like norepinephrine. These hormones inhibit the estrogen-related maintenance of the vaginal lining and glycogen accumulation.
1. Vaginal or genital tract infections caused by stress
According to Dr. Vaidyanathan, stress hormones can decrease the levels of the vagina’s free glycogen and the lactobacilli bacteria leading to a decrease in lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) synthesis.
She further explains that this can lead to a decrease in the pH of the vagina and, consequentially, create an environment conducive to the proliferation of female genital tract infections like bacterial vaginosis.
2. Increased risk of STDs or STIs
Stress can also make a woman more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea, chlamydia trachomatis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and fungal infections such as candidiasis.
“Basically, the overall effect of stress is an imbalanced vaginal ecosystem where protective responses are blunted, which encourages upper genital tract infection with deleterious gynecological sequelae,” Dr. Vaidyanathan mentions.
3. Pregnancy complications associated with stress
As per Dr. Vaidyanathan, pregnant women are also at risk of letting stress ruin their vaginal health, which can lead to pregnancy-related complications such as preterm labor and uterine infection.
4. Increased vaginal discharge
Stress hormones can also cause an increase in the amount of vaginal discharge. This may be a foul-smelling discharge if a woman has caught an infection.
5. Disturbed Sex life
“As cortisol rises due to stress, testosterone (essential for your libido) will dip. This may lead to vaginal dryness and discomfort during sexual intercourse. This can eventually impact your sexual relationship with your partner, further compounding the stress,” Dr. Vaidyanathan warns.A healthy level of the hormone estrogen is needed to maintain a balance of protective bacteria in the vagina, such as lactobacilli. Additionally, the acidity of the vaginal secretions(pH balance) is essential to prevent the growth of infectious organisms in the vagina, which estrogen maintains.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the connection between stress and recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs)?
Chronic stress weakens the immune system, leaving you prone to infections such as UTIs. Hormonal changes during stress may upset the usual bacteria balance in your urinary tract, hence causing repeated UTIs.
What are some effective stress management techniques to support vaginal health?
Stress management techniques for vaginal health encompass consistent exercise, a balanced diet, sufficient sleep, mindfulness practices, and activities like yoga or meditation. These methods help preserve a healthy hormone balance essential for vaginal wellness.
Does meditation help in relieving stress and promoting vaginal health?
Meditation is beneficial in mitigating stress and fostering vaginal health. By lowering cortisol and strengthening stress resilience, meditation aids in maintaining a healthy vaginal pH balance, contributing to overall vaginal well-being.
How can stress cause BV (Bacterial Vaginosis)?
Stress can cause BV (Bacterial Vaginosis) by disrupting the hormonal equilibrium. Elevated cortisol from stress can disturb the estrogen-driven upkeep of the vaginal lining and glycogen, reducing the protective lactobacilli bacteria in the vagina and encouraging the growth of bacteria that cause BV.
Dr. Subhadra leads the Biom Pharmaceutical. As CEO of Biom, he brings expertise in growing and scaling businesses, operations, marketing, and innovation and broad brand portfolios. He worked with several early-stage biotech companies to develop and commercialize biomedical products and services. As a researcher, he studied the role of neuroserpin, tissue plasminogen activator, and thyroid hormone in synaptic plasticity and developed Alzheimer’s disease mouse models and has published extensively in prestigious journals including Nature and Science. He has developed and commercialized numerous patented technologies and products for biochemical, biofuel, and pharmaceutical companies. Bobban has earned a Master’s degree from the University of Arkansas and a Doctoral degree in Microbiology and Immunology from the School of Medicine, University of New Mexico , USA.