We know that our vaginas (aka: lady parts, vajayjay, girly bits) have a rich and varied microbiome that influences not only our general health (and comfort), but also our ability to get pregnant and carry a baby to term. What can we do to improve vaginal health to support getting pregnant and staying pregnant?
1. Don’t douche!
Douching is the insertion of water or other fluids inside the vagina in an attempt to clean or wash the vagina. In the US, about one in four women 15 to 44 years old douche, and more African American women douche than whites or Hispanics. Not only is douching not necessary, it alters the microbial environment, makes it harder to get pregnant, and increases health risks for the fetus during pregnancy. Douching does NOT improve your vaginal health!
2. Avoid Antibiotics.
Antibiotics can be life saving, but are over prescribed and can alter the delicate balance of vaginal health. Doctors often say that their patients push them to prescribe antibiotics when chances are good that the infection is viral and antibiotics will not be effective. Don’t be that patient!
3. Maintain a healthy weight.
Obesity affects the gut biome and it stands to reason that it will affect the vaginal microbiome as well. You don’t have to be skinny, but it helps to be a healthy weight in order to improve your vaginal health.
4. Eat healthy.
There is a lot of information online about what to eat and not eat to maintain a healthy microbiome in our body:
- avoid sugars and refined simple carbohydrates,
- eat fermented food,
- eat yoghurt,
- eat lots of pre-biotic foods such as leeks, garlic, chicory, artichokes, asparagus, parsnip, potato, radish, ginger, onions, sweet potato, bananas, apples, etc.
The vaginal microbiome is less impacted by foods than the intestinal microbiome. At this time there is no strong scientific evidence that what you eat will improve the flora in your vagina, but we do know that eating a healthy diet (which means limiting the amount of sugar, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates) is good for your general health, and good general health has been shown to increase your chances of getting pregnant. Bottom line: eating a healthy and varied diet, with limited amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrates, can’t hurt and might just improve your vaginal health.
No strong evidence exists that probiotics will improve your vaginal biome. In healthy people, they probably won’t hurt, but they are fairly expensive. You’ll need to weigh the limited evidence that they improve vaginal health with the cost.
For more information on ways to improve vaginal health to help you get pregnant, listen to this fascinating Creating a Family Radio Show/Podcast on The Microbiome and Fertility. Our guest experts were Dr. Jason M. Franasiak, Associate Chair of the 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 former Chief Medical Officer at Celmatix. These two are doing and have done some of the cutting edge research on how vaginal health can affect fertility.
Other Creating a Family Resources You Will Enjoy
- Infertility Questions You’re Embarrassed to Ask
- 4 Home Remedies That Will Actually Help You Get Pregnant
- 5 Things You Must Know About Sex When Trying to Get Pregnant
Image credit: Pink Sherbet