What Disrupts Vaginal PH Balance & What You Can Do About It
By The Fixx
pH Balance & Vaginal Health
What is pH level? A pH level is a measurement of how acidic or alkaline a substance is. It is measured on a scale of 0-14. The median is 7 and anything below that is acidic (the lower the number the more acidic it is), and anything above it is considered alkaline or basic.
What does it have to do with your vagina? Your vagina’s health can be determined by its pH level. A normal level is between 3.8-4.5, but that can change with time and age. The reason your pH level matters is because when it’s over 4.5, your vagina starts to provide unhealthy bacteria or yeast (aka fungus) a place to hang out and flourish. Then, vaginal odor, discomfort, infections can start to creep in.
How normal is a fluctuating pH level? It depends. Your vagina is a self-cleaning superhero. Generally speaking, it will balance itself out without your help. But there are certain things can aggravate it and make it easier to become off-balance causing abnormal pH fluctuations.
Things that can affect your vaginal pH balance include but aren't limited to:
Antibiotics. Taking antibiotics for something, they can actually work to remove the good bacteria in your vagina that help keep things working smoothly. Consuming foods rich in probiotics like yogurt and taking Lactobacillus acidophilus supplements may help prevent these infections while taking antibiotics.
Your period. When you menstruate, your pH levels fluctuate. Menstrual hygiene products that absorb rather than collect menses such as tampons (which holds blood inside your vagina for longer than your body intended) tend to disrupt your vaginal pH and encourages bacterial or yeast growth. That’s why you must change tampons every 4 hours or choose alternative period products like a menstrual cup or menstrual disc which doesn’t affect your vagina’s delicate pH balance. Wearing breathable fabrics like cotton can also help because it will not hold moisture or heat.
Wet clothing. Bacteria and yeast thrive in warm, wet environments which is awesome for bread making but detrimental for maintaining a healthy vaginal pH. Wet bathing suits and sweaty gym gear can become the perfect playground for bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections. So try to change out of wet clothes ASAP to avoid
Douching or deodorizing. Like we mentioned before, your vagina is a smartie. It can self-clean and doesn’t need to be douched, cleansed with scented or deodorizing soaps, or sterilized with anything. Rinsing with water should be enough, but if you insist on washing up, choose unscented mild soaps that are diluted with water before applying it to your vagina.
Semen.Penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex can result in some nasty infections because the pH levels of semen are higher than the pH levels of vaginas, which can mess with the growth of healthy bacteria or “vaginal flora.”
Pregnancy.Vaginal infections are common during pregnancy, thanks in part to hormonal changes that alter your vagina’s pH-balance. If something feels off, check in with your health provider.
When Should You Talk To Your Health Provider?
If you experience any of the symptoms below, it's a good indicator that you vaginal pH is off balance. Give your doctor or health provider a ring to figure out what’s going on if you're suffering from:
Inflammation or swelling
Abnormal odor (fishy, cheesy)
Unusual discharge (greenish, chunky,)
Pain with sex
For now, you’ve got an A+. See you next class when we dive deeper into how your menstrual hygiene products could be adversely affecting your pH levels.