What is Vaginal Flora / Woman’s Flora? – an Overview

What is Vaginal Flora / Woman’s Flora?

Do you know what exactly vagina is? In scientific terms – it is fibromuscular tube lined in stratified squamous non keratinized epithelium. Vaginal flora helps to protects our vagina and bladder from infections.

In simple language, vaginal flora is microbiome of good bacteria to prevent some infectious pathogens. Almost all of us are aware of the fact we have some friendly bacteria inside our gut, skin, intestine, vagina, etc. Most of the time when we talk about bacteria, our brain only thinks of deadly bacteria which causes cholera, diphtheria, typhoid, etc. but it is much more than that.
Bacteria which are present in our body providing us with some benefit are often called as bacterial flora in the context of our body. Now talking about the female reproductive system. We have bacterial flora in the vagina, which is known as vaginal flora vaginal flora is also called as vaginal microbiota. This means they live in the vagina.

What is Normal Vaginal Flora?

Vaginal flora mainly consists of Lactobacillus species. Other examples of microbes present in the vaginal are Peptostreptococcus, Clostridium, Staphylococcus, Actinomyces, Escherichia, Proteus, Gardnerella, Candida albicans, etc.  Apart from these microbes’ lactobacillus is dominating the flora.it helps to maintain the pH of the vagina. The pH of the vagina should be 3.8 – 4.5. it produces lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide, etc. which creates an unsuitable environment for the growth of yeast. The slightly acidic pH doesn’t allow infectious bacteria to grow.

The microbes are anaerobic, aerobic, and yeast depending on their site where they are present. These are present in the lower reproductive tract of a mature woman. These organisms protect us from infectious diseases.
Why Vaginal Flora should be healthy

It is very important to keep vaginal flora healthy. Increase or decrease in its number can lead to various injections. For example, bacterial vaginosis, it is a condition where normal flora is disrupted. It causes a decrease in a number of Lactobacillus species. Such a decrease in population of lactobacillus in woman’s reproductive organ can increase the risk of getting HIV, syphilis or other STDs.

What causes bacterial vaginosis? It is caused due to overgrowth of bacteria which should be present in low number. So this states clear that vaginal flora should be healthy to prevent us from STDs or any infectious diseases.

How can you make Vaginal Flora Healthy?

It is very important to maintain a healthy vaginal flora. The vagina has slightly low pH, natural lubricants and has a rich quantity of friendly bacteria.

The bacteria present in the vagina also secrete the small amount of discharge. It can be as much as a tablespoon of discharge as low as a teaspoon of discharge daily. For those who don’t know what is vaginal discharge.

Vaginal discharge is shedding of vaginal cells and cervical cells. But when a female experiences change in the odour of discharge or change in its color then, it may be an issue of concern. It can further lead to itching, burnings, etc. After knowing these facts you must be concerned about your vaginal flora’s health.

We can make the vaginal flora healthy by:

1. By protecting its pH: Normally vaginal pH Should be 3.8 – 4.5. douching can cause the change in the pH level which can disrupt the healthy vaginal pH Now a day we have a lot of products to maintain vaginal pH If you find anything suspicious than consult gynecologist.

2. By maintaining a healthy diet: The balanced and nutritious diet is very important for the healthy vagina. You should drink a plenty of water. Yogurt is a good source of probiotics. If a woman is very prone to any yeast infection, then taking Greek yogurt is the best solution.

3. By safe sex to prevent any harmful germs: Using a condom of male/female during sex can protect various harmful infections. It protects us from STDs. The person should avoid sharing sex toys with the partner.

10 Interesting facts about Vaginal Flora?

1. Lactobacillus Acidophilus – Curd Maker

It is quite interesting to know that Lactobacillus acidophilus is present in our vagina. But what all we have known of L. acidophilus till now that it is responsible for the formation of curd. You must be wondering if L. acidophilus present in your vagina can make curd? Ya, that’s right, it must be shocking for us! It is true that L. acidophilus can make curd because it is the same species of lactobacillus which makes curd. So how lactobacillus protects our vagina from infections and sometimes deadly pathogens which may cause cancer? How can we form curd from those bacteria? These are some question most of the people ask when they come to know about this fact.

Let’s come to our doubts. Yes, we can make curd from L. acidophilus found in the vagina by extracting them. Well, it is again something usual but it is possible because it can be easily extracted. I don’t adhere to vaginal cells. L. acidophilus makes the curd and gives milk, a gel-like consistency. It protects from Candida albicans infection as it seemed to decrease its ability to adhere to vaginal epithelial cells. And here the story of curd maker end.

2. Can vaginal discharge make curd?

If you think that vaginal discharge contains vaginal flora, then you are wrong. Vaginal discharge does not have vaginal flora. If such condition is found (presence of bacteria in vaginal discharge), then it is known as bacterial vaginosis. It is a condition where vaginal discharge appears greyish and makes it smelly. Now you can sign!

3. Controversial bacterium

It is interesting to know that all those bacteria which can cause severe and deadly diseases to one can be useful for another organism. We have heard about this bacteria – E. coli in scientific experiments, biotechnology, etc. such as in humulin which was produced by use of E. coli and more such uses are there. But have you heard about E. coli present in your vagina? If no, then it is true that it is present and no doubt in a beneficial manner.

But do you think it may cause an infection or disease in return? Is it ok if you don’t have E. coli in your vagina? Is it ok if it is present in your body?

The presence of vaginal colonization with E. coli was studied among 495 healthy premenopausal women. So as it suggests, it is totally healthy and non-virulent. But yes it is not so common in all women. You may or may not have it. It is only found in 12% of women across the world. E. coli is also found in our gut. So it is not new for our body. And is perfectly normal to have E. coli as your vaginal flora. You may sigh! And if you don’t have E. coli it is perfectly normal.

All this was confirmed by University of British Columbia Student Health Service. It was noted that it was found in 61 women’s vagina. There is no correlation with vaginal E. coli was observed regarding prior vaginal infection within 2 weeks, sexual activity, intercourse during menstruation, or use of vaginal douche or spray, using of tampons. Hence we must call it a controversial thing.

4. Cheesy fact

If you have studied biology you must be knowing that Propionibacterium is a bacteria used for making cheese. You may call it a cheesy topic. But this cheese bacterium is also there in your vagina. You might be thinking that maybe this bacterium makes your vaginal flora sticky considering what it does with cheese. But this is not what it does.

It has both beneficial and non-beneficial roles in our body. It can cause skin problems like acne, etc. (when present on the skin). But it also protects our vagina from infections when it is present in the vagina.

5. Friendly yeast

Candida albicans is a yeast present in our body. It adheres to vaginal epithelial cells that is why we must call it too friendly microbe. We can also call it as opportunistic yeast. It is also found in our gut. It was reported in HIV patients also. But don’t worry it will not harm you until it is there in your vagina. You may call it deadly yeast but I think we should prefer friendly yeast as its name.

If it overgrows in our body it can cause weight loss, fatigue, mood swings, depression, etc. then a low carb diet is recommended.

6. Pseudomonas – FALSE?

It is gram-negative bacteria found in vaginal flora. Don’t be confused about its name it is nothing to do with electric signs of positive-negative. It is so because it doesn’t take up a gram stain. This is because it has a thick cell wall. Now back to Pseudomonas.

As it has a thick wall it works well for vaginal protection. That’s all unknown facts about pseudomonas.

7. It’s smell

We all must be knowing about “Vaginal Discharge”. If you don’t know then it is nothing but mucus used for lubrication during coitus. It comes from vagina and cervix. So here the interesting fact is that vaginal flora is responsible for that characteristic smell of its discharge. Vaginal flora can alter.

Sometime discharge may appear greyish and yellowish. But trust me it is not a good sign. It is due to vaginosis which I explained earlier.

8. Do vaginal flora effects consistency of its discharge?

Most of the people think that vaginal flora effects vaginal discharges consistency. But it is not correct. The truth is it is clearly based on the shape of the cervix and hormones. The shape of the cervix determines the consistency of vaginal discharge. Women can produce discharge naturally that females need to wear a panty liner. The shape of the cervix is altered during pregnancy. So vaginal discharge can only be affected during pregnancy or due to some infection or ovulation. During pregnancy due to change in hormones change its consistency.

So it is very much clear that vaginal flora doesn’t affect the consistency. It is totally based on hormones and shape of the cervix.

9. Can alteration of vaginal flora affect pregnancy?

Pregnancy represents a pretty major shift indeed. If you are reading till here, then you know that bacteria are not in the female womb. If there are any then, that could create a lot of complications. And if you are thinking that vaginal flora changes during pregnancy, then let’s look up at a survey. The scientist took 68 samples from 24 healthy pregnant women. Then it was compared from 310 samples of 60 non-pregnant control. They extracted the DNA from the vagina and sequenced them on basis of a taxonomic group of bacteria. All those control women were non-menstruating at that time. Half of them were taking hormonal contraceptives. Pregnant women showed less diversity of bacterial species. So it was observed that there is less diversity of bacteria during pregnancy.

10. Do they decrease in number?

If you are getting more curious about this topic then, you must ask if they decrease in number or not? Do its number affect anything? The answer to this question is they can decrease in number due to:

1. IUDs
2. Contraceptives in pregnancy
3. Less acidic pH of the vagina
4. Excessive or improper washing of groin area
5. Very tight clothes or panty liner hence be careful before using them

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