How Does Menstruation Impact My Vaginal Microbiome?
Lots of behaviors and bodily changes impact the vaginal microbiome. One of the most cyclical are the changes that happen during the menstrual cycle. Knowing what they are, and what they mean for your microbiome, is an important way to keep yourself healthy.
How Does My Period Change My Vaginal Microbes?
Normal pH Changes
Under normal conditions, the vagina has a pH between 3.8 and 4.5. That’s about as acidic as a tomato or a glass of wine. During menstruation, however, blood is introduced to the vaginal environment. Menstrual blood has a pH of about 7.4 — further down the alkaline side of the spectrum than the typical environment.
Lactobacillus thrive in the normal vaginal environment (unless you have a Vaginal Type IV, which we discuss in our recent article). However, these changes during menstruation are associated with a decrease in lactobacillus, and an increase in bacterial diversity. When the vaginal microbiome is less stable, there is a greater risk of developing vaginal infections.
Poor Menstrual Hygiene
Vaginal hygiene is always important, but during menstruation, there’s a lot more involved! Throughout your menstrual cycle, experts recommend washing often with water and mild, unscented soaps, as opposed to douches or harsh cleaning chemicals. The vagina does a lot of its own cleaning — and introducing other chemicals to the environment can send bacterial levels out of balance.
During menstruation, experts recommend changing sanitary products every 4 to 6 hours. There is more than just blood in menstrual discharge, and that can attract microbes to the area. “Doubling up” on sanitary products is not recommended, since it can make you less aware of when it’s time to change your pad or tampon. Using tampons of the correct absorbency is also a way to ensure you know when it’s time to make a change.
Other Behavioral Changes
Menstruation can throw our hormones for a loop! This leads to some changes that directly or indirectly impact our vaginal microbiome.
Did you know 97% of women report experiencing cravings around their period? Blood sugar changes make many women reach for something sweet in the days leading up to menstruation. Because a healthy diet is an important part of a healthy microbiome, overloading on those sugary treats can push the microbiome out of sync.
Changes to exercise routines or sexual activity also play a role in the vagina’s microbiome — this means if you disrupt those routines around your period, you may make further changes to your microbiota.
Understanding the Vaginal Microbiome
You don’t have to be in the dark about what’s going on in your microbiome! Kean V tests provide meaningful insights into your bacterial composition, your vaginal type, and any risk factors associated with vaginal disease.