What purpose do vaginal microbiomes serve? What causes common vaginal disorders?
What effects do modern medical practices have on these miniature ecosystems?
How can understanding the evolution of sex and gender aid in our ability to answer these questions?
The human body is a complex and exciting thing. So many cells and processes are coordinated together to make us who we are. Yet there is more to humans than just our own components. Living in and on us are countless microorganisms that play vital roles in how we live. These so called microbiomes serve many purposes, from breaking down nutrients to fending off pathogenic microbes, but despite their importance, they are often overlooked. Antibiotics that diminish gut flora and harsh alkaline cleansers that expose protective skin bacteria are just two examples everyday activities that have unintended consequences for our microscopic companions. These ramifications are especially important in the realm of women's health. A healthy vaginal microbiome is critical not only for general well-being, but also for successful pregnancies. So many aspects affect this fragile equilibrium, many of which are not well undertood. I purpose that by examining the evolution of the vagina from the very beginning and the co-evolution of the microbiome, that health professionals can open the door to a better understanding of this ecosystem and the factors that can help and harm it.