How Your Vaginal Microbiome Seeds Your Baby’s Immune System

Have you ever considered what’s in your lubricant? Your vagina has a delicate microbiome that could be disrupted by many of the common ingredients in lubricants. 

Why is this important to know?

A healthy vaginal microbiome seeds your baby’s immune system upon delivery, but that is not all. The baby actually interacts with the mother’s many communities of microbes from fertilization to birth in the uterus, placenta, and then vaginal canal. The baby’s microbiome is then reinforced through breastfeeding. So, really the vagina is just the beginning.  

What is a microbiome? 

A microbiome is a diverse ecosystem of microbes. Microbiomes also drive much of human function. In the vagina, this community of microbes is dominated by Lactobacilli and actually protects you daily from the colonization of pathogenic bacteria that leads to things like yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, or other reproductive/urinary tract infections.

Unique Footprints Nerd Stat: Your body is 90% Microbial DNA and 10% Human DNA.

What are the main things that affect the vaginal microbiome?

Toxins, diet, and stress.

How can I support my vaginal microbiome?

Healthy diet (avoid sugar and include a prebiotic and probiotic regimen)

Reduce Stress

Look at the ingredients in your lubricants, laundry detergents (they end up on your underwear), and body washes. You want to avoid: glycerin “glycerol”, sorbitol, chlorhexidine, scents/flavors, petroleum, propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol, phenoxyethanol, sorbates, benzoic acid, l-arginine, nonoxynol-9, acetate and parabens.

Why should I avoid these ingredients?

They are irritants that can lead to higher risk of contracting an infection by disrupting the delicate balance of microbes. 

-Sugar: Don’t ever put sugar in your vagina, this can lead to yeast infections.

-PEGS (polyethylene glycol): These are highly absorbent through the skin and made with toxic heavy metals. Vaginal tissue is very thin and absorptive…just say no.

-Parabens: These mimic estrogen and can cause endocrine disruption which means hormone issues/fertility issues. Don’t put this into your reproductive tract or on your skin.

-Antimicrobials: Obviously, with the aforementioned information about the vaginal microbiome being an ecosystem of microbiomes that keeps you healthy…Don’t kill them.

When these products are introduced to the vaginal canal it’s like burning the rainforest of your vaginal ecosystem. However, it is not your fault if you’ve used these chemicals. It’s a shame that they are even in female care products. As with many things motherhood or wellness related you just do your best until you know better. 

Pro tip: As a pelvic physical therapist, I don’t even use these ingredients in my practice or on pregnant women. While there are some emerging lubricants that are considered clean and much healthier for the vaginal microbiome, in my practice, I give my clients the choice of no lube or a dab of organic coconut oil. 

We’d love to hear: Are you wondering if you lube is filled with toxins? Go check mama!

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Unique Footprints Authors:

Chelsea Harkins, PT, DPT

Chelsea is the Unique Footprints Doctor of Physical Therapy and founder of Dallas Pelvic Health, specializing in treating prenatal and postnatal women. She believes in a holistic approach to pelvic floor therapy and integrates her orthopedic experience into her practice to help mothers achieve complete restoration and healing of their postpartum body. You can learn more about Chelsea here. 

Jenny Morrow, RN, IBCLC, LCCE, RYT

Jenny is a born and raised Texan who loves the feel of a book in her hands, an unshakable optimistic and refuels by time in nature. She’s a mom, neonatal nurse and founder of Unique Footprints (a fully realized, 100% digital pregnant and new mom resource). She created her company in the delivery room – literally! As a nurse assisting with deliveries and postpartum care, she directly witnessed families who did not feel prepared and were shocked through the transition into parenthood, and she knew there was a better way. Jenny has taught over 10,000 expecting families how to prepare for this time in their lives. You can learn more about Jenny here.

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