You've probably heard about the delicate balance of your vaginal pH but you might not know much more about it.
Gaining a little more understanding about this is important for your overall vaginal health — especially if you're someone who has experienced recurring infections or discomfort.
Your vagina has a delicate balance of healthy bacteria and acidity that helps protect it from infection and irritation. But sometimes, that balance can be disrupted and in some cases, can lead to issues like bacterial vaginosis or vaginal yeast infections.
So, with this in mind, let's dive into all things vaginal bacteria, what vaginal pH means and how to maintain this. Ready?
What is vaginal pH?
Vaginal pH refers to the level of acidity or alkalinity in the vagina. Think of it kind of like the Goldilocks of your lady bits — your healthy pH should be not too acidic, not too basic, but just right.
In scientific terms, the pH scale measures how acidic or alkaline your vaginal environment is and this acidity is maintained by good bacteria that live in the vagina and help keep harmful bacteria and infections at bay.
When this balance is disrupted, it can lead to infections, which we've all experienced at one time or another.
What is a healthy vaginal pH?
A normal vaginal pH level usually ranges from 3.8-5.0, which is slight to moderately acidic.
This acidity is actually a good thing because it helps maintain a healthy vagina and protect itself from bad bacteria and infections . A lower pH value (meaning more of an acidic environment) in the vagina helps keep the bad stuff out and the good stuff in.
What is vaginal flora?
Vaginal flora refers to the collection of microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, that live in the vagina. These microorganisms play an important role in maintaining the health of the vagina and preventing infections.
The most common types of vaginal flora bacteria are lactobacilli, which produce lactic acid and help maintain the acidic pH of the vagina.
Changes in vaginal pH can disrupt the balance of the vaginal flora and increase the risk of infections. Factors that can affect normal vaginal pH can include menstruation, sexual activity, douching and vaginal cleaning products and the use of certain medications such as antibiotics.
How do I know if my vaginal pH is off?
There are a few signs that your own vaginal pH levels might be off-balance.
The most common signs include:
- Unusual discharge: If you notice a change in the colour, texture, or smell of your discharge, that could be a sign that something's up with your vaginal pH
- Itching or burning: If you're feeling uncomfortable or itchy down there, it could be a sign of an infection caused by an imbalance in your vaginal pH
- Pain during sex: An off-balance pH can cause inflammation or irritation, making sex painful or uncomfortable
- Vaginal pH tests: A vaginal pH test is a test that measures the acidity or alkalinity of the vaginal environment. The test involves taking a sample of vaginal discharge using a cotton swab or a special pH testing strip and then analysing the pH level of the sample
If you're still experiencing symptoms any of these symptoms, it's a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider to see what's going on and get any necessary treatment .
Is an unbalanced vagina pH dangerous?
An unbalanced vaginal pH can increase the risk of developing bacterial vaginosis (BV) or a yeast vaginal infection, which can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as itching, burning, and abnormal discharge.
While these bacterial infections are generally not dangerous, they can be uncomfortable and affect your quality of life.
In some cases, an unbalanced vaginal pH level can also increase the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Additionally, if left untreated, certain types of vaginal and bacterial infections can lead to more serious health problems.
Can sex cause unbalanced vaginal ph?
Certain sexual activities or practices can contribute to an imbalance in vaginal pH levels.
For example, having frequent or unprotected sex, using certain lubricants or sex toys, or having multiple sexual partners can disrupt the natural balance of good bacteria in the vagina and lead to an increase in vaginal pH value.
It's important to practice safe sex to avoid a vaginal ph imbalance and to protect yourself against sexually transmitted diseases.
Can vitamins throw off your pH balance?
Vitamins themselves do not typically have a direct effect on vaginal pH balance. However, some vitamin supplements may contain acidic or alkaline compounds that can affect the pH of bodily fluids, including vaginal secretions.
A natural acidic level is essential to avoid the overgrowth of harmful bacteria. Disrupting this natural, acidic environment, pH level or balance can lead to an increased risk of bacterial or fungal infections.
Some vitamin supplements containing acidic compounds, such as vitamin C (ascorbic acid), may potentially lower the vaginal pH and disrupt the balance of bacteria.
However, this is not typically a significant concern unless the supplement is being taken in very high doses .
What causes changes to your vaginal pH
Several factors can cause changes to normal vaginal pH levels. 
Some of the most common causes of changes to the vagina and vaginal ph levels are:
The vaginal pH varies throughout the menstrual cycle. During menstruation, oestrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate, causing the pH to change.
Semen has a pH level of around 7.1-8, which is higher than the typical vaginal pH of 3.8-4.5. Intercourse can therefore temporarily increase the vaginal pH, which can lead to an imbalance of bacteria and potentially cause infections.
Douching disrupts the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina, which can lead to an increase in pH and infections.
Antibiotics can kill both harmful and beneficial bacteria in the vagina, which can disrupt the vaginal pH balance and cause infections.
During menopause, the levels of oestrogen in the body decrease, which can cause the vaginal pH to increase and become less acidic.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause an increase in vaginal pH, making pregnant women more susceptible to vaginal infections.
Certain health conditions, such as bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections, can cause changes in the vaginal pH.
How to restore your vaginal pH balance
Maintaining the proper pH balance in the vagina is important for overall vaginal health. Here are some steps you can take to restore your healthy vaginal pH balance.
Douching disrupts the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina and can cause a pH imbalance. Avoid using any products or methods that alter the vaginal pH.
Wear breathable underwear
Wearing cotton underwear can help to absorb moisture and prevent bacterial growth.
Avoid scented products
Avoid using scented soaps, lotions, or other personal care products in the genital area as they can irritate the vaginal tissue and disrupt the natural pH balance.
Kin’s Vaginal Probiotic supplement is a natural blend specifically formulated to promote a balanced urinary tract and support vaginal health.
Developed by certified dietitians, it contains cranberry extract to reduce the likelihood of cystitis, the most prevalent UTI, and other high-quality ingredients to enhance overall normal vaginal ph.
Probiotics can also be obtained through your diet. Foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, or sauerkraut can are high in probiotics.
Avoid tight-fitting clothes
Wearing tight-fitting clothes, especially synthetic fabrics, can trap moisture and promote bacterial growth. Wear loose-fitting clothing made from breathable fabrics like cotton.
Drinking plenty of water can help flush out toxins and maintain a healthy pH balance.
Physical activity promotes vaginal health by improving blood circulation. This supports healthy tissue growth and reduces the risk of infection. Additionally, regular exercise can help to maintain a healthy body weight, which can also reduce the risk of developing vaginal infections and other health conditions.
If you experience persistent symptoms such as itching, burning, or abnormal discharge, consult with your doctor.
There are a few medical treatments to help restore your normal vaginal ph as well. These include:
- Antibiotics: If the unbalanced pH is caused by a bacterial infection, such as bacterial vaginosis (BV), antibiotics may be prescribed to kill the harmful bacteria and restore the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina
- Antifungal medication: If the unbalanced pH is caused by a yeast infection, antifungal medication may be prescribed to kill the overgrowth of yeast and restore the natural balance of the vaginal environment
- Hormone therapy: If the unbalanced pH is caused by hormonal changes, such as menopause, hormone therapy may be recommended to help restore the natural balance of the vaginal environment
- Prescription vaginal creams: Prescription creams or gels may be recommended to help balance the pH of the vagina and reduce symptoms such as itching or burning
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