Fertility & Postpartum

There's a growing body of science on the impacts of probiotics on fertility, pregnancy and postpartum vaginal health. Science has found that a disrupted vaginal microbiome can reduce IVF cycle success, impact women’s ability to get pregnant and even be a factor in miscarriage and preterm birth. The pregnancy impacts and subsequent hormonal changes can have a disruptive impact on vaginal health. After both vaginal and c-section births, infections such as UTI’s, bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections can be common due to hormonal changes and physical impacts of childbirth. For maintenance of a healthy microflora, both prenatal and postnatal, vaginal probiotics can provide that support 

Does a probiotic help with fertility?

Professor Willa Huston is a microbiologist at the University of Technology Sydney. Her research team is committed to understanding how STIs and the vaginal microbiome are involved in infertility and other adverse impacts on women’s reproductive and genital health.

"In the not too distant future you might be encouraged by your doctor to give some thought to your microbial friends in your vagina! Scientists have found that the microorganisms (or microbiome) in your vagina can be important for fertility and successful outcome of your pregnancy,” she said.

“Women undergoing fertility treatment who had vaginal microbiomes with mostly lactobacillus were more likely to have a successful positive pregnancy test. On the other hand, women without (or with less) lactobacillus but with more microorganisms that have be associated with unhealthy states, have been reported to be less likely to have a positive outcome of fertility treatment. This is likely also the case for women who are trying to get pregnant without assisted reproduction therapies.”

While the research is emerging and ongoing, in the next few years we will have a clearer understanding on probiotics particularly to support fertility.

Does a probiotic help postpartum vaginal health?

The research on the vaginal microbiome pregnancy composition dramatically changes postpartum to become less Lactobacillus spp. dominant independent of ethnicity. Lactobacillus are the good, healthy bugs that help to control pathogen populations in the vagina.

With these changes, women may want to consider adding healthy lactobacillus into the vagina postpartum in the form of a postnatal probiotic.

What should you look for in a post-natal probiotic?

The best postnatal probiotics will have a combination of healthy strains found in the microbiomes of ‘healthy’ women. It’s important to note there is a great deal of diversity in healthy microbiomes however these strains have been found by scientists to be the most beneficial overall for vaginal health, regardless of life stage, including prenatal and postpartum, and ethnicity:

Lactobacillus species

The microorganisms that dominate a healthy vagina microbiome and are critical for maintenance of vaginal wellbeing are the Lactobacillus species. Lactobacillus (L.) species produce lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide and other directly antimicrobial agents which have essential role in the fight against microorganisms that cause bacterial vaginosis (BV), yeast infections, and itching and burning symptoms in the vagina.

There are around 20 lactobacillus species that have been detected in the vagina. Recent scientific research has shown that healthy vaginal microflora does not contain high numbers of many different lactobacillus species. Rather, 1 or 2 lactobacillus species are dominant (mainly L. crispatus and L. iners but also L. gasseri and L. jensenii), and other species are rare.

Lactobacillus crispatus

The most important, in fact we like to call it ‘the queen’, of the Lactobacillus species is called Lactobacillus crispatus. It is the most beneficial healthy bacteria in vaginal microbiome of 65% of women. If you get back a vaginal microbiome test, and see L. crispatus dominance in the results it will usually indicate that there is a balanced and healthy vaginal microbiome. L. crispatus creates very stable colonies which protect vaginal environment from BV causing bacteria. 

Lactobacillus gasseri

Lactobacillus gasseri is the ‘second in command’ good bug, entirely connected with the healthy and balanced vaginal microbiome. It is present in healthy vaginal microbiome in more than 40% of women. Although it does not create as stable colonies as L. crispatus, certain L. gasseri strains have the ability to attack bad bugs by releasing antimicrobial substances that interfere with their ability to survive in the vagina and biofilm (a protective layer some bag bugs can create around themselves) formation.

If you’re looking for a vaginal probiotic to maintain a healthy microbiome before and after pregnancy consider one featuring these lactobacillus species.