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.
Given that microbiological factors account for a large proportion of known infertility, it is important to recognize microbiological induced infertility under NON-inflammatory conditions.
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 secretion of antibacterial bacteriocins as well as the production of metabolites such as lactic acid that help to 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 of the reproductive system. Imbalance of the vaginal microbiome is also associated with complications of pregnancy, in particular an increased risk of preterm birth.
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.
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 plays a paramount role 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 in place 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.