Updated: May 30
Pregnancy is an exciting and often challenging time for expectant mothers. Along with the many physical changes that occur during pregnancy, women may experience changes in their vaginal microflora, which can lead to various health issues. In this article, we will discuss what vaginal microflora is, why it's important during pregnancy, and how to maintain healthy vaginal microflora.
Why is Vaginal Microflora Important?
Vaginal microflora plays a crucial role in maintaining vaginal health and preventing infections. The predominant microorganisms in the vaginal ecosystem are lactobacilli, which help to maintain an acidic environment (pH<4.5) in the vagina. This acidic environment creates an inhospitable environment for harmful bacteria and fungi, which helps to prevent infections.
During pregnancy, maintaining healthy vaginal microflora is particularly important because it can help prevent preterm labor and other complications. A disrupted vaginal microbiome can lead to bacterial vaginosis (BV), which has been linked to preterm birth and low birth weight.
Impact of Vaginal Microflora on Pregnancy Outcomes
Research has shown that imbalances in the vaginal microflora during pregnancy can lead to a variety of complications. For example, bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common condition that occurs when there is an overgrowth of certain bacteria in the vagina. BV has been linked to preterm birth, miscarriage, and low birth weight. Candida is relatively well known to be associated with Gestational diabetes mellitus[i].
Similarly, a lack of lactobacilli in the vaginal microflora has been associated with an increased risk of preterm birth and other adverse pregnancy outcomes.
The good news is maintaining a healthy balance of lactobacilli in the vaginal microflora has been associated with a reduced risk of preterm birth and other complications. So, all pickled vegetables come in handy here, but in moderation. Although, women should be careful with homemade pickles, as they have a higher risk of growing harmful bacteria like Listeria[ii].
How to Maintain a Healthy Vaginal Microflora during Pregnancy
Maintaining a healthy vaginal microflora during pregnancy is important for preventing complications and ensuring a healthy pregnancy. Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy vaginal microflora during pregnancy:
Eat a healthy diet that includes foods rich in probiotics, such as yogurt, kefir and pickled vegetables. Eat more fresh vegetables as they are prebiotics! And change those cookies, cakes and candies in to fruits and berries.
Avoid douching, as this can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina.
Wear Breathable Clothing: Tight-fitting clothing made of synthetic fabrics can trap moisture and create a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Opt for loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabrics like cotton.
Avoid Irritants: Chemical irritants like perfumes, deodorants, and lubricants can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina. Avoid using these products or opt for natural, unscented alternatives.
Use condoms during sex to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can disrupt the vaginal microflora.
Probiotics: Probiotics are live microorganisms that can be taken orally promote healthy vaginal microflora. Talk to your healthcare provider about which probiotics are safe to use during pregnancy.
In conclusion, maintaining healthy vaginal microflora is crucial for ensuring a healthy pregnancy. By eating healthy, practicing good hygiene, wearing breathable clothing, avoiding irritants, practicing safe sex, and avoiding sweets, women can protect themselves and their babies from complications associated with imbalanced vaginal microflora. If you have concerns about your vaginal health during pregnancy, talk to your healthcare provider for guidance and support.
[i] Xinhong Zhang et al. Association of gestational diabetes mellitus and abnormal vaginal flora with adverse pregnancy outcomes. Medicine (Baltimore). 2018 Aug; 97(34): e11891. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6112872/ Published online 2018 Aug 24. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000011891 [ii] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16300073/
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