General Uterine Infections
Doctors suspect that infections of the uterus could play a crucial role in very early deliveries (before 32 weeks). Uterine infections accelerate the disintegration of the protective membrane in which the baby is encased. Then, a few weeks after the onset of disintegration, the infections cause the uterus to begin contracting. However, as the membranes fall apart, a protein called fibronectin is released. This can be detected using a high vaginal swab (spotting it early would allow doctors to treat the infections using a drug called metronidazole). In a 1998 study, women who were at high risk of pre-term delivery, and were screened for asymptomatic bacteria (an infection causing no symptoms), were given metronidazole and this significantly reduced the incidence of premature birth and also low birth-weight.
Of course, in an ideal world, it would be better for women to be screened for these bacteria before conception so that they did not need treatment while pregnant.
Candida albicans (often called thrush) is a yeast which occurs naturally in the gut, in the skin and in the vagina and is usually controlled by other bacteria. It may not be stopping you conceiving but if you are aiming to optimize your health before conception then it is well worth eliminating it. When the immune system is compromised, say because of illness or bad diet, the proportions of the different bacteria can alter, allowing Candida to grow out of control. When antibiotics are given for infection they do not discriminate between the ‘good’ bacteria in the body and the ‘bad’ bacteria, they just wipe out everything. In this situation, there are not enough of the ‘good’ bacteria to keep the Candida under control and it can overgrow. Previous use of the Pill can also cause problems with Candida, and so can long-term steroid or antibiotic use.
The main symptoms of vaginal thrush are a thick, white, sticky discharge with soreness and irritation. Men can also experience a discharge from the penis with soreness or redness.
Candida is often carried in the digestive system and can give rise to symptoms such as food cravings (especially for sugar and bread), fatigue, bloated stomach with excessive flatulence, feeling spaced out and feeling drunk on a small amount of alcohol. For these symptoms it is best to consult a nutritional therapist.
If you are susceptible to vaginal thrush, prevention is best. Wear cotton underwear and looser-fitting clothes because the yeast grows in a warm, moist environment. Have a break from using tampons and use sanitary towels instead. Avoid perfumed soaps and bubble baths. Use a few drops of tea tree oil in the bath to act as an anti-fungal. Take a good probiotic (the opposite of an antibiotic) which will help to re-colonize the gut flora. For example, you could buy a good acidophilus supplement, made by a company such as BioCare or Solgar and keep it in the fridge.