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Vaginal pH: what it is and why it matters

When it comes to vulvas and vaginas, why are pH levels so fundamental? Because maintaining the right pH prevents internal bacterial infections.

By Giada | 23 October 2021
Illustration depicting a person in their underwear
Aiste Stancikaite: August II (Copyright © Aiste Stancikaite, 2020)

A balanced vaginal pH is essential to the health of vulvas and vaginas.

Remember first hearing about pH in chemistry class? When it comes to vulvas and vaginas, pH is just as important, as is the pH of anything that might come in contact with them.

Why? That is because maintaining the right vaginal physiological pH helps prevent internal bacterial infections.

Acidic or basic: variations in vaginal pH

Important premise: pH ranges from 0 to 14, moving from acidic to neutral to alkaline (or basic).

Vaginal pH varies during the course of a lifetime: during childhood and old age, pH is rather neutral (6-7), while it tends to be acidic in teenage years and adulthood (3.8 – 4.5).

This slightly acidic level helps vagins naturally fight vaginal and vulvovaginal infections.

3 factors that alter vaginal pH

When the vagina’s pH balance is threatened, harmful bacteria might take over.

Hello period my old friend!

During the premenstrual and menstrual phases, vaginal pH tends to become neutral. This is when you should pay your vagina extra attention as the risk of bacterial imbalance is greater.

Vaginal acidity, which is helpful in fighting germs and the wrong kind of bacteria, also happens to be somewhat of a threat to the survival of sperm. Prior to ovulation however, the vagina’s acidic pH is altered by the slightly alkaline pH (around 8) del cervical mucus in order to facilitate potential fertilisation!

Let’s talk about sex!

Sexual activity is relevant for vulva and vagina health. Sperm has a slightly alkaline pH level (between 7,1 and 8). This is why having penetrative sex without a condom might alter vaginal pH and create the right conditions for bacterial growth.

If you often experience UTIs and/or yeast infections, it is always a good idea… Actually, let us rephrase: condoms are ALWAYS a good idea, regardless of any other factor. Safe sex is the best sex.

In sickness and in health!

If you are taking antibiotics, you should take into account that altering pH levels might be one of the side effects.

How do you know when your pH falls outside the optimal range? Itching, odours and maybe even mild swelling. The good news is, there are a number of natural remedies to restore pH balance.

But first, let’s try to actually assess our vagina’s current pH level.

Can you measure vaginal pH?

There are simple self-test kits you can use at home (like a swab test).

Self-testing might be helpful if you are experiencing pain or issues. While home tests won’t be able to let you know if any infections are actually there, it will be a good indicator of vaginal health and the sign that you might need to conduct further tests and do a complete check-up.

How to restore vaginal pH: prevention and tips

While you should always talk to an expert when it comes to potential infections, here are a few general tips you might want to implement alongside a medical treatment or as prevention.

  • Consider probiotics and food supplements. Probiotics help maintain optimal pH levels and promote a healthy microbiome.
  • Never douche and only used specific intimate hygiene products or delicate soaps. Vaginas are self-cleaning, while vulvas require water and appropriate products. The key here is to promote good bacteria, not to get rid of it.
  • Watch what you eat! Vulvas and vaginas feel it too. Too much sugar can threaten pH balance. Fruit, vegetables and especially yoghurt, which is full of probiotics, are great allies.
  • Wear cotton underwear and avoid tight garments. Cotton is natural and breathable, making it perfect for everyday use. Wearing synthetic fabrics increases risk, while wearing tight clothes might also promote UTIs, ingrown hair and even yeast infections.
  • Leave stress at the door. If we’re dealing with extra stress or anxiety, the vagina’s immune system might be weakened. Find your balance, whether it is through exercise, meditation or a session with your favourite toy (which we assume will be spotlessly clean before use).

Having a vagina is an amazing feeling, but it takes work for to keep healthy and therefore happy. By following these general guidelines and being more aware of things such as pH levels, you are one step closer to a lifetime of intimate health and general bliss!

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