Don’t Trust Your Gut: Why Your Microbiome Is Important to Fertility

Dr. Cassie holding a pregnancy support supplement at the Minneapolis Integrative Medicine office.

Half of your body is not human. Your body is composed of trillions of bacteria, called your microbiome, and it represents 0.3% of your overall body weight (1).  Although there has been an emphasis on the ecology of the gut, your microbiome plays a key role in female reproductive health, too.

The growth of recent literature has myth-busted the classical consideration that the uterus is a sterile cavity (2). Moving beyond this turnkey concept has opened the door to newfound research into how your microbiome can play a significant role into fertility optimization. Here, we review a few of the roles that healthy bacteria play in female fertility. (Don’t worry—we’ve talked about tips for male fertility too.)

Bacteria and Your Vagina

Although the vagina contains a variety of species, it predominantly contains lactobacillus species, including the four largest species of L. crispatus, L. iners, L gasseri, L jensenii. The lactobacillus family:

  1. produce lactic acid which helps maintain a healthy pH of the vaginal mucosa,
  2. produce antimicrobial compounds towards invaders,
  3. and regulate the immune defense system.  

In fact, research is unveiling how dysbiosis, or disturbance to the healthy vaginal microbiome, can affect fertility in IVF. One study reports that women with abnormal vaginal microbiota are 1.4 times less likely to have successful early pregnancy development after IVF (3). This could highlight how dysbiosis could also play a significant role in women who are trying for natural birth.

How Your Microbiome Impacts Fertility

Implantation requires the presence of a healthy microbiome in the upper reproductive tract, which includes the endometrium, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. The upper reproductive tract, although it contains a lower biomass of bacteria, still plays an important role in fertility. That’s partially because the endometrium contains more immune cells than other productive tissues. This may seem odd but the science unfolding demonstrates that a healthy immune system at the endometrium allows for your body to establish tolerance for sperm, embryo or fetus, which otherwise would be seen as “foreign” to the body (4). Dysregulation is associated with infertility, miscarrigae, and other obstetric complications (4). 

How to Support Your Fertility & Reproductive Organs

Keep It Clean By Leaving It Alone

Stop using soaps and douches for your internal lady parts. Your vagina is a self-cleansing machine, thanks to the acidic pH, so if you want a clean vagina, leave it alone! 

Skip Conventional Period Products

Say bye bye to your basic tampons and pads, and hello to organic! Organic pads and tampons can reduce your exposure to harsh chemicals that can expose you to carcinogens, irritate your intimate areas, and disrupt hormones

Some of my favorite brands include:

  • Rael 
  • Cora 
  • Lola
  • L Brand
  • Seventh Generation

Let Your Clothes Flow

Wearing tight clothes or underwear can trap heat and moisture that can create an environment more susceptible to infections (read: change out of your yoga pants at least once a day!). Cotton underwear can be a great alternative to nylon and spandex.

Say Hello to Fiber

Keep your meal plan focused on fiber. A high-fiber diet can help healthy bacteria thrive.

Don’t Go It Alone—Especially When It Comes to Supplements

Work with your local ND to identify a probiotic for your daily regimen. We can help, if you don’t have a doctor who understands your needs, or creates a tailored-to-you plan for your best health. Book online to get the support you need for fertility and beyond.

Citations:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4991899/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6558212/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30685426/
  4. https://linkprotect.cudasvc.com/url?a=https%3a%2f%2fwww.frontiersin.org%2farticles%2f10.3389%2ffimmu.2019.02387%2ffull&c=E,1,04Hkq8znH1L_FGWHtderyJNbT7o7NA2zWdNU54OFovR13Gd3Sbp14BfLFBSM1ZRBGCXXbjP4lbcbDSsz-xKlNFC0TH4gDhLDfWJM12r2_KcK9-kOpu8HEg,,&typo=1