Vaginal pH balance
Maintaining the pH balance of the vagina is essential to keeping it healthy.
A normal vaginal pH is between 3.8 and 4.5. When the pH level is within this range, it can help avoid bacterial and fungal infections. Conversely, a high pH can cause infections as it may allow bacteria and fungi to thrive.
The Lactobacilli bacteria live in the vagina and secrete lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide, which give the vagina its acidic pH level.
Vaginal pH can change over a person's life. Before menarche (the first ever period) is usually higher than 4,5, as well as after menopause.
Vaginal pH is usually less than 4,5 during a woman's reproductive years unless a medical condition or infection increases it.
How can I check my vaginal pH?
You can check your vaginal pH with the vaginal pH tests immediately and reliably (see the restrictions).
What changes vaginal pH?
Several diseases and infections can affect the vaginal balance of pH, usually by increasing its levels.
Causes of changes in vaginal pH include the following:
Bacterial vaginosis is a medical condition that occurs when too much bacteria is present in the vagina. This can cause an increase in vaginal pH levels.
A person with bacterial vaginosis may experience itching, burning, or pain in the vagina. They may also feel a burning sensation when urinating and notice a white or gray discharge.
Douching refers to washing or cleaning the vagina using special solutions for its sterilization.
These solutions should be used sparingly because they may reduce the vaginal odor temporarily but, in fact, may aggravate the smell. This is due to the fact that they also destroy good bacteria, which balance the pH of the vagina, and can make it more susceptible to infections.
Rupture of membranes (ROM)
Amniotic fluid has a pH value of between 7.0 and 7.5. Note, however, that a high pH during pregnancy does not necessarily entail rupture of the membranes, but could be any of the causes mentioned in this article.
Women tend to have higher pH levels during menopause, with an average vaginal pH of 5.3.
Reduced estrogen levels during menopause may affect the vaginal pH.
Other vaginal infections
The presence of infections outside of bacterial vaginosis may also increase the vaginal pH. Examples include Trichomonas vaginalis and group B Streptococcus (GBS).
Presence of menstrual blood
Blood has a higher pH than the vaginal environment. During menstruation, the presence of blood may increase the vaginal pH levels.
Presence of sperm
Semen is basic, which is the opposite of the vagina's acidic environment. When semen enters the vagina, it may temporarily increase the pH.
People use antibiotics to kill harmful bacteria, but these medications can kill good bacteria as well. This will include bacteria in the vagina. If a person is taking antibiotics, their vaginal pH may be out of balance.
Urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) do not cause a higher vaginal pH, but having a high pH can increase a person's risk of developing a UTI.
Researchers have also linked higher vaginal pH to several other conditions, such as infertility, premature birth and increased risks for sexually transmitted diseases.
Natural remedies to restore balance
If vaginal pH levels are usually high without symptoms of infection, the following steps at home can help lower the pH value:
- Avoid hard soaps and unnecessary vaginal douching. Soaps typically have a high pH and using them to clean the vaginal area may disrupt the pH balance of the vagina. It is better to use warm water and a gentle cleanser to clean the vulva, but avoid using soap within the vagina.
- Take a probiotic supplement or suppository. Probiotics help restore the natural bacterial levels of the body. Some foods also contain probiotics such as yoghurt, kefir and others.
- Change the tampon regularly. Leaving a tampon for a long time can increase the vaginal pH because the blood pH is slightly basic. Changing tampons often also reduces the risk of bacterial infections, including toxic shock syndrome (TSS).
- Use condoms during sex because not only they help prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases but also prevent semen and other fluids from affecting vaginal pH levels.
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