It itches, it burns - and the discharge smells unpleasant fishy: vaginal infections are the most common reason for a visit to the gynecologist. Five million women are affected each year. It happens after a visit to the pool or in the sauna, too tight clothing, a new partner, unhealthy diet, too much alcohol and nicotine, inappropriate intimate hygiene - or simply because the nerves are blank: Bacteria or fungi trigger inflammation of the vagina, "With a smear, the gynecologist can identify the cause of the inflammation - and depending on the trigger with an antibiotic or antifungal agent to treat the acute vaginal infection quickly, " said the Berlin gynecologist Prof. Dr. med. Erich Saling.
Lactic acid bacteria as a natural protection of the vagina
In every fifth patient, however, the vaginal infection becomes chronic - because the acute treatment not only destroys the pathogens, but also lactic acid bacteria that keep the genital area in a healthy biological balance. "On a healthy vaginal mucosa, lactic acid bacteria, which break down sugars in the mucous membrane, outweigh lactic acid, " explains Prof. Saling. And this acidic environment (pH below 4.4) makes the vagina strong against pathogens. Yeasts, bacteria and trichomonads can then spread only with difficulty.
Lactic acid bacteria act as a "natural shield" against pathogens that can trigger a vaginal infection. If they are in the minority, it is necessary to provide for replenishment. In the pharmacy, there are now tablets and suppositories (eg Vagiflor) containing viable lactic acid bacteria that are convenient to introduce and help to restore the biological balance.
Vaginal infections: risk for the desired baby
Even during pregnancy, these patron saints fulfill an important task. Every year, 50, 000 babies are born too early - that is, before the 37th week of pregnancy - in Germany. Bacterial infections are the most important cause of this complication besides stress, smoking or hypertension. Experts estimate, "Bacterial infections account for 15 percent of premature births."
Because vaginal infections are initially symptom-free, they are often recognized and treated too late. "Every seventh pregnant woman suffering from a bacterial vaginal infection gives birth to a premature baby, " gynecologists say. They recommend measuring the pH of the vagina twice a week and restoring the biological balance with preparations containing lactic acid bacteria.
And this can succeed very successfully, as a study at the Berlin Charité Clinic showed: In a group of pregnant women with an increased vaginal pH and disturbed biological balance in the vagina, 15 percent of the subjects gave birth to a preemie. In pregnant women, whose vaginal flora was restored with lactic acid bacteria, the premature birth rate dropped to two percent.
Vaginal infection: what to do to avoid this?
In addition to the targeted immunotherapy with lactic acid bacteria, you can do yourself a lot to avoid a vaginal infection:
- Mild intimate hygiene: Do not overdo it with hygiene and use mild cleansing lotions instead of aggressive soap.
- Use bandages instead of tampons: Some tampons will cause the vagina to dry out easily and may cause irritation. Use better binding.
- Natural fibers instead of synthetics: pathogens multiply rapidly in a moist environment. Therefore use natural fiber briefs that can be washed at 60 degrees and avoid very tight pants. They can trigger a moisture build-up.
- Get out of the wet swimsuit: Change the swimsuit immediately after swimming.
- Beware of hot tubs: Moist heat is an incubator for fungi and bacteria that can trigger a vaginal infection.
- Healthy Diet: Low fat, enough protein, vitamins and minerals, low sugar and sweets. Because a sugar-rich diet creates favorable living conditions for harmful germs in the vaginal area. Mushrooms love sugar!