Your vagina needs to maintain a good pH balance to keep it healthy. But what does this mean, exactly? The “pH” is the measure of acidity or alkalinity, and the range is between zero to 14. Acidic is below 7, and anything above 7 is alkaline.
During the course of a woman’s life, her vaginal pH can change. Before periods start, and after the menopause, the pH is usually above 4.5. When a woman is in her reproductive years, a healthy and “normal” vaginal pH is usually between 3.8 and 4.5. When the vagina is within this range, it’s generally easier to keep bacterial and fungal infections away.
The acidic environment of the vagina is your body’s natural protection against bacterial growth. The more acidic the vagina is, the lower the pH is. When the pH becomes too high, and more alkaline, there is more risk of infections because bacteria and yeast can thrive.
Don’t panic – it is totally normal for bacteria to be present in the vagina – there is a mix of Lactobacilli bacteria and anaerobic bacteria all the time. But this only becomes an issue when the balance between the two changes. The multiplying bacteria secrete lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide, which changes the acidic pH level of the vagina.
In this article: 📝
- How to know if your ph balance is off
- What are the symptoms when your pH balance is off?
- What can cause an unbalanced pH?
- Can sperm throw off pH balance?
- Tips for how to balance vaginal pH
How to know if your ph balance is off
If you’re experiencing some unusual symptoms, the best way to check your vaginal pH is to do a vaginal pH test. You can get home test kits to see if the discomfort you’re experiencing is likely to be caused by an infection that needs treatment by a doctor.
While a home test is helpful, a positive result can occur for other reasons than an infection. And sometimes you can get a negative result and still have symptoms – so if you’re ever concerned, please get medical advice from a professional.
What are the symptoms when your pH balance is off?
There are a couple of outward signs to look for when monitoring the health of your vagina:
Discharge color and texture: Healthy discharge is usually clear or white. If the color changes and becomes grey or yellow, or if it has a cottage cheese-type texture, then something has changed internally.
Discharge odor: Healthy discharge is usually odorless or can have a very faint smell. If this changes to become stronger, foul or a “fishy” smell then it’s worth investigating.
Itching or discomfort: If you’re experiencing any itching around the vagina, burning when relieving yourself, and/or discomfort during sex, then this is worth looking into because these activities shouldn’t be uncomfortable.
What can cause an unbalanced pH?
A change in discharge or discomfort are indications that you might have an alkalized vagina, and this can be confirmed by further investigations from a medical pro. In many cases, the symptoms are diagnosed as bacterial vaginosis (BV) or a yeast infection. If you have any of these symptoms, it’s best to make an appointment to see your doctor for some advice.
Can sperm throw off pH balance?
It is possible that sex and sperm can influence the natural vaginal pH balance, so if you’re experiencing discomfort during or after sex then it’s worth getting some medical advice.
Tips for how to balance vaginal pH
Moderation with food and drink is one way to help keep your vagina healthy, as an excess amount of sugar can disrupt your pH balance and encourage yeast to grow.
Douching can interfere with the natural pH of the vagina and encourage bacterial infections. If there’s a strong smell, douching will only cover it up rather than help you solve what’s causing it.
Try to avoid harsh soaps in the vaginal area, as that can affect a healthy pH balance.
Leaving a tampon in for too long can encourage bacterial growth, leading to things like a yeast infection or toxic shock syndrome.
Similarly, chemicals in scented tampons can also change the pH levels in your vagina, so it might be best to avoid them.
Antibiotics and birth control can potentially influence your pH levels, especially if you’re prone to getting yeast infections.
The good thing is, maintaining a healthy pH balance doesn’t require you to do anything out of the ordinary. If you keep an eye on how your body is feeling, and leave your vagina to do what it’s naturally designed to do, then your pH levels will hopefully remain stable.