Your vagina's pH level: what it is and how to keep it balanced

Your vagina's pH level: what it is and how to keep it balanced

 A healthy vagina is sacrosanct to the female sexual and reproductive system. A balanced vagina pH is a prominent determinant of a healthy vagina. It protects the vagina from infections and ensures its naturally lubricated during sex.

What exactly is vagina pH? When are its balance and imbalance? What can disrupt my Vagina pH?
How can it affect my vagina health? How can I maintain a balanced vagina pH?

Let's break it down.

Read this article till the end as I unravel and explain everything in detail.

What is pH? 🤷‍♀️

Here we are going to do a bit of chemistry but trust me, I am a good teacher, I will break it down to its simplest form.

PH simply means the level of acidity of a substance. The amount of acid a substance contains.

This is measured on a scale of 0 to 14. However, the calculation is done negatively. 14 is the lowest level. It goes up from there. When it reaches 7, we have neutral (not high, not low) from 6- 0. The acidity level is high, while it's lower from 8 to 14.

Different part of the body has a different level of acidity. The stomach, followed by the vagina, has the highest level of acidity in the body. While vagina acidity prevents vagina infection, a balanced acid level in the stomach also aids digestion.

What is Vaginal pH? 🤷‍♀️

Vaginal pH is the level of acidity required of the vagina to keep it healthy and functional. The Vaginal is highly acidic. Our vaginal tends to be highly acidic while we are young and decline as we approach and reach menopause.

Normal Vagina pH is around 3.8 - 4.5 at a younger age, but as we start menstruating and approaching menopause, it drops. The normal pH at that period would be below 4.5.

The vaginal requires a balanced vaginal pH to breed beneficial bacteria, kill the harmful ones, and prevent infections.

Yes, bacteria. Not all bacteria are harmful to the body. Some bacteria are normal inhabitants of the body, and they perform certain beneficial functions.

The vaginal breeds a bacterial called Lactobacilli. This bacterial is responsible for the vagina's acidity. It produces hydrogen peroxide and lactic acid.

The acid produced prevents the multiplication of harmful bacteria and yeast. It also reduces the risk of several other infections.

Any foreign substance which might reduce the number of this bacterial has to be avoided because that will automatically lead to lower production of the required acid.

Effect of an unbalanced pH 

A balanced vagina pH isn't too high or too low

A high vaginal pH breeds harmful bacteria and parasites, thus exposing the vagina to infections. Common conditions associated with high vagina pH are trichomoniasis and bacterial vaginosis. Although these conditions aren't harmful, they increase the risk of greater diseases such as HIV, Human Papilloma Virus, Genital herpes, and several other STDs.

Decreased Fertility

A high vagina pH will hamper the survival of sperms in the vagina. Sperms need a lower acidic level to be able to swim. During sex, the vagina acidity level temporarily reduces to protect sperms and allow them to swim to the egg. The vaginal pH for sperm is around 7.5-8.0. Anything above this level will kill those sperms. This explains why some women are yet to conceive.

Symptoms of an unbalanced vagina pH 

  • Vagina itching.
  • Unpleasant vagina odour.
  • Painful sex.
  • Burning sensation during urination.
  • Vaginal swelling and irritation.
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge. Sometimes greenish, foamy, or grey.

Causes of imbalanced vaginal pH 

👉 Medication

Certain medications, especially antibiotics, work indiscriminately. Antibiotics will eliminate all bacteria in your vagina, either good or bad. This may raise the vaginal pH.

Depending on your body, some birth control pills may also raise your Vagina pH and expose you to the risk of infections.

👉 Use of Petroleum-based lubricants during sex

These lubricants have higher pH, and this would compromise your vagina pH and expose you to harmful bacteria.

👉 Douching

The vulva is the only washable area in the pubes (this should even be done with care). Trying to wash the inside of the vagina will kill or rid your vaginal of its acidity and herald infections.

👉 Washing the vulva with highly perfumed soap and soap with harsh ingredients

This will kill the harmful bacteria. Even if it's the vulva, you don't need soap all the time. If you must use one, go for unscented soap and cleaners.

👉 Menstrual cycle

Your red fluid also affects your pH balance. The vaginal pH may increase when it comes in contact with menstrual blood.

On the other hand, external menstrual blood coming in contact with your vaginal through a soaked pad or tampoon will lower your vagina pH.

A lowered acidity will also allow harmful bacteria to enter your vaginal.

As such, changing menstrual protection frequently is advisable.

👉 Sex without protection

Semen is naturally less acidic. Having sex without a condom will allow semen into your vaginal, and it will mess with your Vagina pH.

A 2011 research confirmed that semen could lead to vaginal alkalinity ( lower the pH) and expose it to infections such as bacterial vaginosis.

This is so because the vagina needs to lower its acidity to allow sperm to survive and encourage fertilization.

As such, unprotected penetrative sex increases the chance of infections which may be comfortable in a lower acidic environment.

How to correct imbalance vagina pH and maintain a balance at home 

✅ Take more of prebiotic-rich foods

Lactobacilli, the good bacteria that produce acid and protect your vagina from infection, can be found in certain prebiotic-rich food such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and yoghurt.

Prebiotic supplements also contain lactobacilli. These supplements do not just multiply lactobacilli in your body, they can also ward off harmful bacteria.

✅ Treat yeast infection and Bacterial Vaginosis with Garlic or Garlic tablet.

Studies have shown that garlic contains a bacteria-fighting compound called allicin, and it also contains several antioxidants.

A 2014 research conducted, over 100 women showed that garlic could cure symptoms of Yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis without much side effect.

Based on the research, the participants took 500mg of garlic tablets twice a day for seven days before they achieved the desired result.

However, there is a note of warning. People with underlying health conditions who may be averse to garlic intake should avoid this treatment.

✅ Reduce or quit smoking

A 2018 research found that women who smoke have a lower level of beneficial bacteria, lactobacilli, in their vaginas. If you can't quit smoking at once, reduce its frequency to protect your vagina health.

✅ Avoid douching and washing your vulva with harmful substances

Washing the interior of your vagina will do you no good. I understand the fact that you want to feel clean. However, the interior vaginal will help you with that. Restrict any form or mixture from entering your vaginal.

The vulva is the only area that needs cleansing. However, you have to tread carefully in this region as well.

Only exfoliate, cleanse or moisturise with safe products made with natural ingredients. Avoid soap or cleanser with high fragrance.

Don't exfoliate or moisturise with products with a high chemical base, and don't let any of these substances enter your vaginal.

To save you the hassle of picking out products with safe ingredients for your pubic area, I recommend Oyo pubic skincare kit.

It's a complete pubic skincare regime. It contains a cleanser, exfoliator and moisturiser, all made with natural products and dermatologically approved to be safe for your pubic area.

✅ Practice save sex

 If you do not intend to get pregnant, unprotected sex is not worth it. Semen will reduce your vagina pH and expose you to bacterial infection.

Use a barrier such as a condom during sex to restrict the contact of your vagina with semen.

If you have sex without any barrier, ensure you urinate immediately after sex. It helps flush out bacteria that might have gained entry into your vagina before they travel down the urinary tract and cause urinary tract infection.

✅ Maintain good menstrual hygiene

Your menstrual blood will affect your vagina pH. Using a sanitary pad or tampon for a longer period may bread harmful bacteria and grant them entry. As such, change your pads and tampoon frequently.

✅ Maintain good panties practice

Panties are the clothing that comes in direct contact with your vaginal daily. You need to be careful when picking this piece of cloth and always keep it clean.

Panties made out of synthetic material are not recommended. Go for breathable cotton panties. Ensure you wash your panties after one use, and don't wash it with bleach or harsh soap.

Lastly, let your vagina breathe. You don't need to put on panties to bed except you are on your period. You can even go pantless when you are at home.

✅ Medical attention

If, after trying out the above home remedies, symptoms of imbalanced vaginal pH persist, you need to see your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe medications to counter bacterial vaginosis and other yeast infections.

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