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Vaginal Flora, What You Need to Know?
Vaginal flora, also known as vaginal microbiota or vaginal microbiome, refers to the community of microorganisms that reside in the vagina. It is a complex and dynamic ecosystem that plays a crucial role in maintaining vaginal health.
A healthy vaginal flora is predominantly composed of Lactobacillus bacteria, which produce lactic acid and maintain an acidic environment that inhibits the growth of harmful pathogens.
The vaginal flora is influenced by various factors, including age, hormones, sexual activity, and hygiene practices. Changes in any of these factors can disrupt the balance of the vaginal flora and lead to conditions such as bacterial vaginosis (BV) or yeast infections.
Here are some of the important functions of vaginal flora:
- Maintains a healthy vaginal pH: Lactobacillus bacteria produce lactic acid, which lowers the pH of the vagina to around 4.0-4.5. This acidic environment is unfavorable for the growth of harmful pathogens.
- Protects against infections: Lactobacillus bacteria produce various compounds, such as hydrogen peroxide and bacteriocins, that inhibit the growth of harmful pathogens.
- Promotes vaginal lubrication: Lactobacillus bacteria help to produce glycogen, which is converted to lactic acid by the vaginal epithelium. Lactic acid contributes to the production of vaginal fluids, which help to keep the vagina moist and lubricated.
- May play a role in sexual health: A healthy vaginal flora may help to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Here are some factors that can disrupt the balance of vaginal flora:
- Douching: Douching can wash away the beneficial Lactobacillus bacteria, disrupting the balance of the vaginal flora.
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics can kill both harmful and beneficial bacteria, including Lactobacillus bacteria.
- Hormonal changes: Changes in hormone levels, such as those that occur during pregnancy, menopause, or menstruation, can affect the vaginal flora.
- Sexual activity: Sexual activity can introduce new bacteria into the vagina, which can disrupt the balance of the vaginal flora.
- Hygiene practices: Poor hygiene practices, such as not washing the vaginal area regularly or using harsh soaps, can irritate the vagina and disrupt the balance of the vaginal flora.
If you are concerned about your vaginal flora, you should talk to a health care professional. They can perform a pelvic exam and take a swab of your vaginal secretions to test for bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections. They can also provide you with advice on how to maintain a healthy vaginal flora, including taking probiotics.