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The vaginal microbiome: fertility and successful pregnancy

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It is now common knowledge that the human microbiome plays a variety of critical roles in human health and disease. This dynamic system consists of a variety of complex habitats and microbial assemblages formed along the same fundamental processes found in other sophisticated ecologies. Most of the microbes living within the human body inhabit the large intestine. The complex balance required to maintain a healthy symbiotic microbial community depends on a number of factors, including the host genome, quality of nutrition and lifestyles. Any disruption to these factors can result in immune dysfunction and inflammatory processes connecting the gut-immune interface with the wider physiology.

Another specialised microbial community in humans is the vaginal microbiome. Successful human reproduction depends heavily on the correct balance of these microbes. An optimal vaginal microbiome results in the production of lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide, maintaining a level of acidity that keeps pathogenic bacteria at bay. When the vaginal community becomes disturbed, on the other hand, acidity decreases. Pathogenic or other opportunistic bacteria may then invade, which can cause bacterial vaginosis. This is best described as a state of dysbiosis rather than infection. Research suggests that probiotic supplementation may be of benefit in maintaining homeostasis of the vaginal microbiome thereby reducing the risk of infection, dysbiosis and subsequent inflammation and immune dysfunction.

In this infographic we discuss the fundamental importance of the vaginal microbiome and the significant influence this has on the reproductive process, from conception to birth.

REFERENCES

  1. Key statistics demo the national survey of family growth. Centers for disease control and prevention 2013. Viewed 9 July 2015, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nsfg/key_statistics/s.htm
     
  2. Quick facts about infertility. The American society for reproductive medicine 2015. Viewed 9 July 2015, http://www.reproductivefacts.org/detail.aspx?id=2322
     
  3. Sirota I, Zarek SM, Segars JH. Potential influence of the micro biome on infertility and assisted reproductive technology. Semin Reprod Med 2014;32(1):35-42. [Full text]
     
  4. Mendez-Figueroa H, Anderson B. Vaginal innate immunity. Alteration during pregnancy and its impact on pregnancy outcomes. Expert Rev Obstet Gynecol 2011;6(6):629-641. [Full text]
     
  5. Petrova MI, Lievens E, Malik S, et al. Lactobacillus species as biomarkers and agents that can promote various aspects of vaginal health. Frontiers Physiol 2015;6(81):1-18. [Full text]
     
  6. Ma B, Forney L, Ravel J. The vaginal microbiome: rethinking health and diseases. Annu Rev Microbiol 2012;66:371-389. [Full text]
     
  7. Payne M, Bayatibojakhi S. Exploring preterm birth as a polymicrobial disease: an overview of the uterine microbiome. Front Immunol 2014;5:595. [Full text]

 

DISCLAIMER: 

The information provided on FX Medicine is for educational and informational purposes only. The information provided on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional advice or care. Please seek the advice of a qualified health care professional in the event something you have read here raises questions or concerns regarding your health. 

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Melissa Lee
Melissa is a designer turned nutritionist, who for the past 6 years has been combining the two modalities to create purposeful designs for various health publications and websites. Having initially studied Multimedia Systems Design, she then went on to complete a BHSc in Nutritional Medicine which led to her involvement in the integrative medicine industry and eventually to FX Medicine.