Your female genital tract has its own protective mechanism. Let’s take a look!
Let’s have a look at how the female genital tract protects you from infection. I’m sure you are aware of the presence of healthy bacterial communities, also known as microbiota or microbiome, residing in our guts that help with everything from preventing obesity to digestive diseases. But our gut is not the only place where good bacteria thrive!
Just like the microbiome in the gut, your vagina flora keeps you healthy down there. The vaginal discharge and high level of estrogen create a perfect environment for a specific bacterium known as lactobacilli to thrive. These bacteria produce lactic acid which decreases the pH and consequently makes it difficult for harmful bacteria to grow. Several studies have shown that having healthy bacteria (particularly lactobacilli) lowers the risk of STD infections like gonorrhoea, chlamydia and HIV.
Did you know that you don’t have to go to great lengths to clean your vagina? A gentle (unperfumed) soap and water to clean the external area of the vagina is enough and anything further in the vagina will clean itself. Vaginal douching particularly, has very little benefit as it can get rid of the good bacteria and may increase the risk of infection. A healthy vagina is slightly acidic, and it is important to maintain it that way. You should stay away from products that can disrupt the acid balance as they will make you vulnerable to infections.
Just like the innate defences present in the vagina, other parts of the female genitalia also contribute to the overall protection of the female genital tract from infections.
The neck of the womb, called the cervix, has a narrow opening which acts as a barrier to invading infections. The cervix is also covered with alkaline cervical mucus which has bactericidal properties.
Last but not least, the shedding of the womb (uterus) lining during menstruation, helps to prevent infection from spreading upwards.
Your female genital tract is adequately equipped to prevent and fight off infections, but everything has its limit. Practising good female hygiene, eating healthily and living a healthy lifestyle would further strengthen the protective mechanism of your female genital tract.