If it is possible to have a fad medical trend, the human microbiome would be it. Everywhere you look in the popular media you see people discussing the beneficial microbes (bacteria, yeast, etc.) that flourish in and on our body. In truth, this line of research is far from a flash in the pan having resulted from years and years of research in near obscurity.
We know that microbes flourish many places in our bodies—intestines, skin, nose, and vagina. The human body contains trillions (yes, that’s with a ‘t’) of microorganisms — outnumbering human cells by 10 to 1. This microbiome plays a vital role in our health, producing enzymes, vitamins, and anti-inflammatories that humans cannot produce on their own. It turns out that these little organisms also play an important role in our ability to reproduce.
Impact of Microbiome on Fertility
We recently did a fantastic interview on the Creating a Family Radio show with two of the leading researchers on how the microbiome impacts fertility. (see below) The short answer is that microorganisms are vital to getting pregnant and carrying a baby to full term.
It makes sense to anyone who has suffered from a vaginal yeast infection that the vagina has a rich microbiome, but it turns out that the vagina is not the only part of the female reproductive tract that has microbes that aid in conception. It used to be believed that the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and surrounding areas of the upper female reproductive tract were a sterile environment, but recent research has proved otherwise. Bacteria, yeasts, and other microorganism flourish in these environments and are crucial in order to get and stay pregnant. A disruption of the balance in this microbiome may lead to infertility, miscarriage, or pre-term birth.
How the Vaginal Microbiome Affects the Baby
The vaginal microbiome is crucial to the health of the baby once born, and changes during pregnancy to optimize the environment for birth. Researchers have found that the vaginal microbiome undergoes a dramatic shift in the type of bacterial species as the pregnancy progresses. “A newborn is a bacterial sponge as it populates its own microbiome after leaving the sterile womb; passage through the birth canal gives the baby its first dose of microbes, so it may not be surprising that the vaginal microbiome evolved to make it a healthy passage.”
I find this absolutely fascinating.
Impact of Microbiome on Male Fertility
Women are not the only ones with microorganisms in their reproductive tract that impact their fertility. Researchers are finding that the microbiome of the male genital tract, including in the semen, can impact fertility.
What You Can Do to Improve Your Microbiome and Your Fertility
On the Creating a Family show on The Microbiome and Fertility, we interviewed Dr. Jason M. Franasiak, Associate Chair, Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, Board Certified Reproductive Endocrinologist with RMA New Jersey; and Dr. Erin Wolff, former Assistant Clinical Investigator with the National Institute for Health and now Chief Medical Officer at Celmatix. These two are doing and have done some of the cutting edge research on how the microbiome affect fertility. We discussed what woman can do to improve their vaginal and reproductive tract microbiome, and perhaps more important, what does not work.
Other Creating a Family resources you will enjoy:
- Foods and Diet That Can Increase Your Fertility
- Five Things To Do To Help You Get Pregnant
- Getting Pregnant with Male Infertility
Image credit: DerekA