In the UK it’s pussy, in Spain conejo (rabbit) and in the USA beaver (apologies if you didn’t know all that and you are embarrassed—but on my websites we don’t do coy). All references to a woman’s exterior genitalia seem to suggest a small furry animal.
The vulva-vagina is the prize for many a man’s dream (and I suppose, these days, one has to say for those who bat for the other team too).
Vaginal health is little talked about; probably less than vaginal disease even.
A new study called my attention to an interesting fact. Apparently vaginal flora can change quite significantly over time. This is issue is almost as important as intestinal flora and the subject of dysbiosis.
As with the gut, the vagina is technically “outside” the body and therefore accessible to bacteria in the environment. That’s apart from not-quite-clean fingers and penises. The body has various defences for this, to prevent unnecessary infections. For example malic acid is a natural substance found in the vagina and intended to deter pathogens.
But there is no question that the number one deterrent to pathogenic microbes is nice, friendly microbes that got there first! Just like the gut.
But apparently, this population of vaginal microbes can change quite dramatically, in quite short order—not just in response to medications either.
That’s according to a study published in the May 2, 2012, issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Hitherto, all women have been considered pretty much the same when it comes to vaginal microbiota, with the same treatment, usually antibiotics.
Sometimes antibiotics work. But often not. That’s not surprising, since the natural flora are killed just as quickly as pathogens.
This time you can’t use probiotics or yoghurt, though some women I know have douched with yoghurt (one case had strawberry seeds embedded in her cervix—she’d used flavored yoghurt!) Don’t try this at home!
In this study, researchers found five basic bacterial communities, and also noted that some changed rapidly in the same woman while others stayed stable.
In some cases, the collection of bacteria seen in a particular woman would have suggested bacterial vaginitis, although these women were healthy and not experiencing any symptoms.
Changes in bacterial communities tended to correspond with estrogen levels at different points in the menstrual cycle, the particular composition of bacteria in a woman’s vagina and sexual activity.
Vaginal bacteria also can affect pregnancy and fertility. The composition of vaginal microbiota and of a man’s sperm could mean that a woman is fertile with one man and infertile with another, an accompanying editorial suggested.
“We need to rethink the way we approach women’s health and treatment and diagnosis,” said the study authors.
[SOURCE: May 2, 2012, Science Translational Medicine]