Did you know that your vagina has a pH? It’s true. Not only does your vagina have a measurable pH, but whether it is in the healthy zone or not can significantly impact the way you feel, and even make you more susceptible to infection.
The optimal vaginal pH is between 3.8 and 4.5, which falls on the acidic side of the pH scale. In comparison, things like water, hand soap, and sperm have an alkaline pH, in the 7 to 9 range. Why exactly does your vagina strive to maintain an acidic environment? The simple answer is that acidity wards off unhealthy bacteria and keeps yeast from multiplying too quickly.
Today we’re sharing some of the most common reasons why vaginal pH fluctuates and how you might know it is off, as well as tips on how to bring it back into the healthy range.
Why You Might Have An Elevated pH – And What You Can Do About It
If you’ve just had unprotected sex
Did you know that the pH of your vagina naturally rises during sex? This is your body’s way of protecting sperm on its way to the egg and aid in fertilization. While this is beneficial if you’re trying to conceive, we learned earlier that sperm is alkaline, so the presence of sperm can create an elevated vaginal pH long after sex. Things can further be impacted by how much semen is present and how frequently you engage in sexual intercourse.
- Solution: If you have trouble maintaining a healthy vaginal pH (and are not trying to conceive), a good option is to use a condom during sex to prevent exposure to sperm altogether.
If you’ve used conventional soaps, body washes, and douches
Your vagina is a remarkably self-sufficient, self-cleaning machine. That’s why, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, certain conventional soaps, body washes, and feminine products (especially those with a higher pH) may make it even harder for your vagina to keep the bad stuff out.
- Solution: We recommend using a pH-balanced wash like our very own Balance Personal Wash for everyday use. Rebalance Personal Cleansing Wipes are also a great pH-balancing option to refresh and eliminate odor on the go.
If your vagina is naturally lacking in good bacteria
We often hear about our “gut microbiome” and how helpful probiotics can be in aiding digestion. What may surprise you is that these good bacteria don’t just live in your gut. Lactobacilli – one of the primary strains of bacteria found in your intestines – is also prevalent throughout the urogenital tract which includes your kidneys, bladder, urethra, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and vagina.
These bacteria have the important job of making lactic acid, a key part of what makes your vagina acidic. Lactobacilli stimulate healthy cervical mucus, and discourage the growth of unwanted bacteria, yeast, and viruses in your vagina.
For reasons that may be tied to (a) genetics, (b) the way you were born (c-section versus vaginal birth), or (c) your environment, some women do not have an abundant, natural supply of good bacteria in their vagina. Without these bacteria, they will be more susceptible than others to feel imbalanced.
- Solution: We recommend taking a vaginal probiotic like BiopHresh if you suspect you have an unusually low supply of good bacteria. BiopHresh Vaginal Probiotic Supplement has four strains of probiotics found in the vaginal tract and helps restore healthy vaginal flora, promote urinary tract health*, and lower the pH of the vagina.*
If you’re taking antibiotics
Antibiotic medications work in your body by killing all bacteria, both bad and good bacteria. If you have ever been prescribed antibiotics, your doctor may recommend probiotic-rich foods to replenish healthy bacteria in your gut. Just like your gut, your vagina can benefit from these foods/drinks to help restore the good bacteria and bring your pH back into a healthy range.
- Solution: Boost the colonies of good bacteria in your body by consuming your favorite high-probiotic foods and drinks. Examples include yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, fermented pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh and more.
How Will You Know If Your pH Is Too High?
For many women, a pH imbalance is associated with symptoms such as odor and discharge (see full list below) and an increased risk of infection, particularly bacterial vaginosis (BV). Roughly 2 in 5 women have BV, but 84% aren’t aware they have it. This makes BV the most common but least diagnosed genital infection. When BV goes undiagnosed, women are more susceptible to more serious STDs like HIV, and they are more likely to transmit these diseases to a partner.
The following symptoms may indicate the pH in your vagina is out of balance:
- A foul or fishy smell
- Unusual white, gray, or green discharge
- Vaginal itching
- Burning when you urinate
It’s best to see a medical professional to determine the cause of these symptoms and treat the underlying condition.