Why it’s Important to Maintain Your Vaginal pH
- Maintaining your vaginal pH will keep fungal and bacterial infections at bay.
- If your vaginal pH is raised you will be more prone to infections.
- The presence of menstrual blood and semen, both alkaline, can cause the vaginal pH level to rise.
- Your doctor might prescribe antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection.
Your vaginal microbiome, also known as your “vaginal flora”, is the collective term for the colonies of bacteria that live inside your vagina. These bacteria keep your vagina healthy and help to protect it against genitourinary infections. The most common type of bacteria found in a healthy vaginal microbiome is a genus of bacteria called Lactobacillus, so called because of the lactic acid they produce. This lactic acid is what keeps the vagina’s pH balance at a slightly acidic level, thereby preventing the growth of yeast, bad bacteria and other pathogenic organisms which prefer a more alkaline environment to survive.
Our vaginal pH moves up and down naturally during our lifetime. During a woman’s reproductive years a normal vaginal pH is moderately acidic at 3.8-4.5. Before a woman’s first menstrual period and following her menopause a pH higher than 4.5 is considered a healthy level. Below 7 is acidic and above 7 is alkaline, or basic. A lower pH means a more acidic vaginal environment and one that is less susceptible to infections.
What happens when your vaginal ph balance is off?
If your vaginal pH is raised you will be more prone to infections. A high vaginal pH is a risk factor for yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, UTIs and some STDs, for example:
- Bacterial vaginosis results from a shift in bacterial balance in your vagina and an overgrowth of harmful microorganisms. It causes itching, greyish or yellow discharge and a foul odour. Untreated it can increase the risk of humanpapillomavirus (HPV), herpes and HIV.
- Trichmoniasis is a common STD caused by a parasite and is associated with pelvic inflammatory disease and enhanced HIV transmission. Symptoms in women include a smelly yellowish discharge and itching and a burning sensation.
- Vaginal yeast infections are caused when the fungus candida, which can be naturally present in the vagina, overcomes healthy bacteria. Yeast infections cause itching and irritation and vaginal pain.
A higher vaginal pH can also make you more susceptible to regular Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and researchers have linked it with infertility and premature birth.
Your doctor might prescribe antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection and various over-the-counter medications are available to treat yeast infections.
What causes an unbalanced vaginal pH?
The presence of menstrual blood and semen, both alkaline, can cause the vaginal pH level to rise. Douching interferes with the pH level by upsetting the delicate flora and fauna. And taking antibiotics, while important for treating infections, kills both the bad bacteria and the good microorganisms required to maintain an ideal pH range.
How can you correct your pH balance?
There are various things you can do to maintain or restore a healthy pH balance:
- Avoid douching and harsh soaps, they will throw off your vagina’s pH even more.
- Change tampons, sanitary pads and period panties frequently.
- Take probiotics to reintroduce good bacteria, and
- To avoid contact with semen, use a condom or other barrier method of contraception when you have sex.
Top tip! If you notice that the colour in the seat of your underwear – where it makes contact with your vulva – is faded, you may have an overly acidic vaginal pH. Check out our High Vaginal pH Underwear pack for a period pantie that won’t fade if your vaginal pH fluctuates over time.
Nabta is reshaping women’s healthcare. We support women with their personal health journeys, from everyday wellbeing to the uniquely female experiences of fertility, pregnancy, and menopause. You can track your menstrual cycle and get personalised support by using the Nabta app.
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