Can Vaginal Microbiome Imbalance Reduce Fertility Success?
For the millions of women who hope to conceive a child but cannot, a recently published study may shed some light on vaginal microbiome composition and pregnancy outcomes.
Microbiological factors account for a large proportion of infertility, but attention has mainly focused on pathogenesis and infection caused by pathogens.
Since microbiological factors account for a large proportion of known infertility, it is important to recognize microbiologically induced infertility under NON-inflammatory conditions.
The Role of Vaginal Microbiome in Fertility
The vaginal microbiome plays a crucial role in maintaining reproductive health and fertility. It is known the vaginal microbiome in pregnancy plays an important role in both maternal and neonatal health outcomes. Pregnancy is accompanied by a shift in the bacterial community structure of the vagina to a composition that is typically dominated by one or two species of Lactobacillus.
These good bacteria are believed to prevent bacteria growth through the secretion of antibacterial bacteriocins and the production of metabolites such as lactic acid that help maintain a low, hostile pH.
Invasion of pathogens can impair fertility by directly decreasing the motion and vitality of sperm or indirectly by inducing organic injuries to the reproductive system. An imbalance of the vaginal microbiome is also associated with pregnancy complications, particularly an increased risk of preterm birth.
Beyond Infection: The Non-Inflammatory Role of Microbes in Infertility
When discussing microbiological infertility, we often think of infections and inflammation caused by harmful pathogens. However, recent research has shown that the vaginal microbiome can influence fertility even without apparent inflammation. This is often due to an imbalance in the normal beneficial bacteria, leading to a condition known as bacterial vaginosis, which can negatively impact the reproductive system and fertility.
What constitutes a “healthy” vaginal microbiome?
What probiotics promote an optimal microbial environment for fertility and the health and survival of the next generation?
Lactobacillus are common bacteria in the vaginal tract of healthy females. A high Lactobacillus load can enhance the vitality of sperm in the male genital tract and stabilize the microenvironment of the female genital tract. These probiotic effects ultimately result in a positive effect on fertility (Rowe et al., 2020). However, the adherent effect of genital Lactobacilli can also induce a sperm impairment effect when there is a high bacterial load.
Role of Cervix
According to Jennifer M. Fettweis et al. (2011) at Virginia Commonwealth University, “the cervix serves a pivotal role as a gatekeeper to protect the upper genital tract from microbial invasion and subsequent reproductive pathology. Microorganisms that cross this barrier can cause preterm labor, pelvic inflammatory disease, and other gynecologic and reproductive disorders. Homeostasis of the microbiome in the vagina and ectocervix is paramount in reproductive health.”
Clearly, understanding and promoting the health of the vaginal microbiome can help protect and promote a more fertile environment.
Using Lactobacillus treatment instead of direct antimicrobial therapies to restore a healthy vaginal microbiome may promote fertility.
Testing the vaginal microbiome has been found helpful for diagnosing abnormal vaginal microbiota.
Promoting a Healthy Vaginal Microbiome for Fertility
Maintaining a healthy vaginal microbiome is essential for promoting fertility and reproductive health. Here are some strategies to promote a healthy vaginal microbiome:
Probiotics for Vaginal Health: Certain strains of Lactobacillus can be taken as probiotic supplements to restore and maintain a healthy vaginal microbiome. Consult a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable probiotic strain and dosage.
Avoiding Harsh Chemicals: Harsh soaps, douches, and scented feminine hygiene products can disrupt the delicate balance of the vaginal microbiome. Opt for mild, fragrance-free products to minimize the risk of microbial imbalance.
Practicing Safe Sex: Unprotected sexual activity can introduce foreign bacteria into the vaginal tract, increasing the risk of microbiome disruption. Using barrier methods, such as condoms, can help maintain a healthy microbiome.
Proper Hygiene Practices: Maintaining good hygiene practices, such as regular washing with mild soap and warm water, can help prevent the overgrowth of harmful bacteria while preserving a healthy vaginal microbiome.
The Role of Vaginal Microbiome Testing
Testing the vaginal microbiome can provide valuable insights into the composition and health of the microbial community. Diagnostic tests, such as vaginal swabs or DNA sequencing, can help identify abnormal vaginal microbiota and guide appropriate treatment strategies. Consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable testing options for your specific needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can STIs disrupt vaginal flora and impact fertility?
STIs can cause inflammation and alter the balance of vaginal flora, leading to conditions like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) that can potentially impact fertility. Ensuring prompt treatment of STIs is key to preserving optimal vaginal health and fertility.
Are probiotics effective in restoring the balance of vaginal flora?
Probiotics can help restore and maintain the balance of vaginal flora by promoting beneficial bacteria. They form an important component of an overall strategy to support vaginal and reproductive health.
Can stress and lifestyle factors affect fertility?
Yes, stress and lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, sleep, and smoking can influence hormonal balance and overall health, thereby potentially affecting fertility. Managing these factors can be a significant step toward optimizing fertility.
Learn More about Vaginal MicroBiome Balance and Testing to Reduce Infection and Inflammation and Increase Fertility Success.
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.