When I decided to invest in three new bikinis for the long-awaited summer, I had two strong motives: Partially because I am simply prone to vanity, but first and foremost the old wisdom that cold and wet bikini briefs are not good, as they can potentially affect the vaginal microflora and increase the risk of discomfort, such as yeast infections or bacterial imbalance. I was looking forward to a hot summer with lots of swimming and dry bikini changes, but so far I've only worn a single bikini for a few swims due to a cold and rainy summer, but my vaginal microflora is fine!
Oh, by the way, did you know that there are more microorganisms in a woman's vaginal flora than there are people on this planet? Yes, you read that right! In the vagina, there can be hundreds of millions to billions of tiny microbes running and having a lively microbial feast. These tiny, invisible superheroes are an army with a mission, more than dedicated to serving your wellbeing❤
WHAT IS VAGINAL FLORA?
The vaginal flora is the collection of microorganisms, including bacteria, that are naturally present in the vagina and are important for the health and well-being of the vagina.
Vaginal flora is mainly made up of different types of bacteria, most of which are lactic acid bacteria (lactobacilli). These bacteria help to keep the pH balance in the vagina acidic, creating an inhospitable environment for harmful microorganisms such as unfriendly viruses, bacteria and fungi.
THE BENEFITS OF A BALANCED VAGINAL FLORA
Your tiny microorganisms are like tiny and very caring tenants in a very cozy home ❤ They will do everything they can to create as healthy and protective an environment in your vagina as possible. But to do their job, they also need the right conditions.
A balanced and acidic (which is good 😊) vaginal flora:
🌸Keeps the vagina acidic (which is good 😊) and regulates the pH balance in the vagina
Lactobacilli, or lactic acid bacteria, help to keep the pH in the vagina in balance, which is important to prevent the overgrowth of harmful microorganisms. Lactobacilli produce lactic acid by breaking down sugar in the vagina. The lactic acid lowers the pH of the vagina and makes the environment acidic. This acidic pH (usually below 4.5) is unfavorable for many harmful microorganisms, including some bacteria and fungi that can cause infections.
🌸Reduces the risk of infections
A healthy vaginal flora is associated with a reduced risk of some sexually transmitted infections. The acidic environment created by lactobacilli acts as a natural barrier against unpleasant organisms by preventing them from growing and surviving. This reduces the risk of infections such as bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.
🌸Protects the mucous membranes in the vagina
Vaginal flora helps to protect the mucous membranes of the vagina and keep them healthy. Lactobacilli help to strengthen the vaginal mucosa and keep it healthy. This also reduces the risk of irritation and inflammation.
SYMPTOMS OF VAGINAL FLORA IMBALANCE
Symptoms of vaginal flora imbalance can vary from person to person and can also change over time due to hormonal changes, sexual activity, pregnancy and the use of antibiotics or hormonal contraceptives. Imbalances in the vaginal flora can sometimes lead to unpleasant symptoms such as itching, irritation, foul-smelling discharge and infections such as bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections. An imbalance in the vaginal flora can cause various symptoms and discomfort. Here are some common symptoms that can occur with such an imbalance:
Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
An unpleasant or fishy smell of vaginal discharge can be a sign of imbalance. It may indicate that harmful bacteria have increased in number and dominate over the good lactic acid bacteria.
Itching and irritation
Itching and irritation in the vagina and surrounding areas are common symptoms of imbalance. It can be the result of irritation from the overgrowth of certain types of bacteria or fungi.
Read about how to get rid of vaginal yeast infection here
Increased vaginal discharge
Increased vaginal discharge, especially if it has a different color, consistency or smell than normal, can be a sign of imbalance.
Stinging or burning sensation
Burning or stinging sensation when urinating or generally around the vagina can occur if there is an imbalance in the vaginal flora.
Pain during intercourse
An imbalance in the vaginal flora can make the mucous membranes more sensitive, which in turn can cause pain during intercourse.
Greater risk of infections
An imbalance in the vaginal flora can make the vagina more susceptible to infections, such as yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis.
Changes in pH balance
An imbalance can affect the pH balance in the vagina, which in turn can lead to a less acidic environment than normal. This can create a favorable environment for harmful microorganisms.
Dry mucous membranes can lead to discomfort such as itching, burning, pain during intercourse and increased sensitivity to irritation. The secret behind VagiVital AktivGel for dry mucous membranes is its high viscosity and low surface tension, which allows it to adhere to the vaginal mucosa where it moisturizes, restores the pH balance and stimulates cell growth in the mucosal surface layer. For a vaginal gel to work, it must also have an ideal osmolality - the ultimate moisturizing ability adapted to the environment in which it works. AktivGel's low osmolality is adapted to the vaginal environment and allows the crystal clear gel to remain where it is placed and release water to the mucous membranes over time.
You can find VagiVital AktivGel here
Urinary tract infections (UTI)
Fewer lactobacilli and a higher pH balance can increase the risk of urinary tract infections.
Read about urinary tract infections here
The hormonal changes in the body affect estrogen levels, which in turn affect the amount and type of bacteria in the vaginal flora, as well as the acidity of the vagina.
During puberty, estrogen levels increase. This causes lactobacilli, the good lactic acid bacteria, to start thriving in the vagina. This increase in lactobacilli helps to create an acidic environment in the vagina through the production of lactic acid. The acidic environment helps to prevent the growth of harmful microorganisms and thus promotes vaginal health.
Estrogen levels fluctuate during the menstrual cycle. Before ovulation, estrogen production increases and contributes to an increased amount of lactobacilli and an acidic environment in the vagina. During menstruation, the pH balance may temporarily become slightly higher, which can affect the balance of the vaginal flora and make it easier for certain harmful microorganisms to grow.
During pregnancy, estrogen levels increase significantly. This can lead to an increased amount of lactobacilli and a stronger acidic environment in the vagina. This environment helps to protect both mother and fetus from potential infections.
During menopause, estrogen levels drop dramatically. This can affect the tissue in the vagina and reduce the amount of lactobacilli. The acidic environment becomes less strong, which can open up for the growth of other types of bacteria and microorganisms. This can make the vagina more prone to infections and discomfort. As estrogen production decreases during menopause, further changes can occur in the vaginal microflora and mucous membranes:
🌸Reduced amount of lactobacilli
Since estrogen is important for stimulating the growth of lactobacilli, their numbers may decrease as estrogen production decreases. This can lead to a less acidic environment in the vagina and an increased risk of microflora imbalance.
🌸The vaginal mucosa can become thinner
Reduced estrogen levels can affect the thickness and elasticity of the vaginal mucosa. A thinner mucous membrane can be more prone to damage and irritation.
Reduced estrogen production can lead to vaginal dryness, which can make the vagina less hospitable to good bacteria and increase the risk of infections and discomfort.
Read a blog on how to understand and manage vaginal dryness here.
🌸Higher pH balance
The reduced amount of lactobacilli can lead to a higher pH balance in the vagina, creating a more favorable environment for the growth of harmful microorganisms.
TIPS FOR PROMOTING HEALTHY VAGINAL FLORA
A healthy vaginal flora is essential for wellbeing and intimate health. Here are some tips for maintaining a balanced and healthy vaginal flora:
Choose healthy cleaning
Avoid excessive intimate washing and choose the right product for intimate cleaning. A soap risks drying out the vagina and can disrupt the natural balance of vaginal flora, while an oil can remove fat-soluble impurities. Our patented VagiVital V Cleanser is designed to gently remove both oil-based and water-based impurities without disturbing the vaginal flora or the pH balance of the vagina, and is specially formulated to cleanse, moisturize and restore the pH balance of the vagina. It is based on VagiVital's clinically proven and moisturizing AktivGel formula and mild rapeseed oil. Naturally free from soap, fragrance and parabens and recommended by gynecologists.
VagiVital V Cleanser can be found here
Avoid perfumed products
Scented products such as tampons, panty liners and soaps can irritate and upset the balance in the vagina. Use unscented alternatives and try sanitary towels as an alternative during menstruation.
Choose the right underwear
Cotton panties are a good choice because they allow air circulation and reduce moisture, which in turn reduces the risk of imbalance. Choosing a material that allows air circulation, reduces moisture and helps prevent the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and fungi / yeast.
Read blog about vaginal yeast infections here
Change damp underwear
Damp underwear can promote the growth of harmful microorganisms. Change wet bikini bottoms and sweaty panties as soon as possible.
Pee after intercourse and use a condom
Sexually transmitted infections naturally affect the vaginal flora, and a condom is always a good protection. Semen can actually also affect the vaginal flora to some extent, as sperm can change the pH balance in the vagina and thus affect the microbial balance. This is because semen is alkaline (has a higher pH) compared to the acidic environment that lactobacilli create in a healthy vaginal flora. The temporary change after intercourse can therefore give certain harmful microorganisms a short-term opportunity to grow, which can lead to a temporary imbalance in the vaginal flora. Urinating after intercourse may therefore be a recommendation to minimize the risk of irritation and imbalance in the vaginal flora.
Avoid excessive use of antibiotics
Antibiotics can affect the normal bacterial balance in the body, including the vaginal flora. Only use antibiotics as directed by your doctor.
Be careful with intimate shaving
Shaving can irritate the sensitive skin in the genital area, causing itching, redness and discomfort. Intimate shaving can also disrupt the skin's natural protective barrier, making the skin more susceptible to infection and irritation. Pubic hair also plays an important role because it creates an air gap between the panties and the skin, helping to maintain a favorable environment with a more balanced pH and good lactobacilli that keep unwelcome guests (bacteria) away.
Read the blog about intimate shaving here
RESEARCH AND VAGINAL FLORA
Recent advances in technologies such as DNA sequencing (reading and understanding the building blocks of the DNA molecule) and microbiome research (research into microorganisms and their impact on health) have opened up opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of the microbial world in the vagina. Using these technologies, researchers have been able to study the vaginal microflora at a more detailed level. In their studies, they have tried to identify exactly which microorganisms are present in a healthy vaginal environment. They have also tried to understand the different functions of these microorganisms and how they interact with the body's own tissues.
The results of this research have the potential to revolutionize our understanding of vaginal health and how we manage it. By mapping the specific bacteria and other microorganisms found in a healthy vaginal flora and understanding how they interact with the surrounding host, we can gain better insight into the complex processes that affect vaginal health. In the future, this knowledge could lead to new ways to prevent and treat problems related to vaginal microflora, improving women's wellbeing and health in a whole new way.
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT VAGINAL FLORA?
Read the book "Vulva: facts, myths and life-changing insights" by Ina Schuppe Koistinen, Associate Professor of Medicine, a renowned Swedish scientist who has researched various aspects of the vaginal flora and its impact on women's health. Her research has shed light on the connection between the composition of the vaginal flora and infections such as bacterial vaginosis and urinary tract infections. By investigating how different factors, including hormonal changes and sexual activity, affect the balance of the vaginal flora, Ina Schuppe Koistinen has contributed to a deeper understanding of the complexity of the microflora and its impact on health and wellbeing.
Take care of yourself and your invisible superheroes - your vaginal flora. They work tirelessly and quietly behind the scenes to keep your vagina strong and healthy❤.
By Fanny Falkman Grindal