Vaginal pH: What’s a Normal Balance?
Ever felt like your vagina smelt a bit off or even fishy? This doesn’t mean that you need to wash your vagina (which shouldn’t be done!); chances are that it actually has to do with your vaginal pH.
What is vaginal pH?
A pH number may remind you of something you learnt during a chemistry class at school – but it can apply to the vagina too!
If you can’t quite remember your science classes or haven’t learnt about it yet; a pH level is a number on a scale used to indicate how alkaline or acidic something is. The number can range from 1 to 14 and the lower the number, the more acidic a substance is. So basically, your vaginal pH indicates the acidity of your vagina. Even though this may sound strange, vaginal pH is an important factor in determining how healthy your vagina is.
Vaginal pH is significant because having a healthy vaginal pH balance will help your vagina to fight off bacteria, protect against infections and prevent vaginal dryness. However, the vagina does a pretty good job at naturally maintaining its own pH, so unless you have reason to believe something might have upset it, you just need to let it do its thing.
In the meantime, read on to find out what the signs and causes of an unbalanced vaginal pH are, as well as what you can do to maintain a healthy vaginal pH.
What is a normal vaginal pH?
The reported optimum pH number for your vagina is between 3.5 and 4.5 , meaning that ideally your vaginal pH balance should be slightly acidic. However, remember that all our bodies are different! So, there is not one “normal” pH for all vaginas, rather the pH range of 3.5 to 4.5 is what is considered to be healthy.
Signs of an unbalanced pH
Figuring out if your vaginal pH is balanced may sound like the stuff of high-tech laboratories and mad scientists, but your body will actually let you know through some easy to notice physical signs. And if you do spot any of them, rest assured that an unbalanced vaginal pH can be easily fixed with the right care.
The main signs that your vaginal pH is unbalanced are:
- A “fishy” odour
- Thick, white discharge (texture and appearance may be similar to cottage cheese)
- An uncomfortably itchy vagina
- A slight burning sensation when you pee
- General inflammation in your vagina and around your vulva
If you have any of these symptoms persistently, it’s most likely that your vagina has an unbalanced pH and maybe a vaginal infection such as bacterial vaginosis (BV), or a yeast infection like thrush. The science behind this is that basically your vagina has good and bad bacteria, but if the pH levels of your vagina are unbalanced, then the bad bacteria will be able to grow more quickly and sometimes result in a vaginal infection. Even though vaginal infections may sound scary, they are actually extremely common and can be easily cured with the right treatment. All you have to do is check in with your doctor so that they can provide you with the best solution.
What can cause an unbalanced vaginal pH?
Some daily activities, medication and bodily processes all have the potential to throw off your vaginal pH. Read on to find out more about what can cause an unbalanced pH, so that you can be a bit more aware as to why you may have it.
Even though they may smell sweet and delicious, some fragranced intimate washes, perfumes, scrubs, female hygiene products and douching (washing or cleaning out the vagina using water or a mixture of fluids ) may irritate your vagina and disturb its natural pH levels, as the products can sometimes be either too alkaline or contain harsh chemicals. In any case, you shouldn’t be washing the inside of your vagina!
It’s not something that most of us were taught during sex education at school, but semen is actually an extremely alkaline substance. So when it enters the vagina it has the potential to interfere with your vaginal pH.
Antibiotics are great at getting rid of unwanted bad bacteria but unfortunately they can sometimes kill the good bacteria too. When you kill the good bacteria in your vagina, your vaginal pH is altered and this also means that yeast infections can be more likely to grow .
Interestingly enough, nylon, wet or even sweaty post-gym clothing provide a warm environment where bacteria and yeast can grow and cause an imbalance in your vaginal pH. So even though laundry can be a pain to do, it can be worth it even just to avoid a potential yeast infection!
Period blood is also more alkaline than your natural vaginal pH, so sometimes if sanitary products aren’t changed often enough it could cause a rise in the pH levels of your vagina. Periods can be pretty stressful already without adding a possible unbalanced pH, right? Keep reading to find out some useful tips to keep your vaginal balance in check!
How can you help maintain a healthy vaginal pH?
Even if you don’t currently have an unbalanced pH, it’s always useful to know how you can help your body maintain a healthy vaginal pH.
Avoid perfumed hygiene products
When washing around your vulva, try and use soaps or washes specifically intended for your intimate area to avoid harsh chemicals that are likely to unbalance your vaginal pH. After all your intimate skin deserves all the special, gentle and soothing care you can give it!
Remember, your vagina is amazing at self-cleaning! It uses discharge and cervical fluid to help preserve an optimum environment for your vagina. So, cleaning methods like douching really aren’t a necessity; instead you can let your vagina work its cleaning magic!
Use protection during sex
If you happen to have male sexual partners, using a condom during sexual intercourse will not only provide protection from STIs and pregnancy but it also stops semen (which is alkaline!) from entering your vagina and potentially altering its pH. This is definitely a topic you can talk to your partner about, so that you can open up and discuss what’s best for both of you.
Change your tampon or sanitary towel regularly
It’s not always easy to remember (especially during busy, chaotic days) but if you can change your female sanitary product regularly, you’ll be able to not only stay fresh throughout the day but also prevent period blood from interfering with your vaginal pH.
So there you have it! All the basic information you need to know about vaginal pH, what it means and how you can maintain a healthy balance by looking after your V-Zone health. At the end of the day though, our vaginas are really just amazing at looking after themselves.
The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.