EROTIC MAGAZINE FOR WOMEN AND COUPLES » Sexual Health and Wellness » What is vaginal ph, what’s normal and why is it important?

The vagina is home to a lot of bacteria.

Known as vaginal flora, one might call it a thriving bacterial ecosystem!

Maintaining the pH balance of the flora is a crucial part of keeping the vagina healthy.

A pH scale is used to measure how acidic or alkaline a substance is and runs from 0 to 14. Anything with a pH less than 7 is considered acidic, whilst anything with a pH more than 7 is considered alkaline, sometimes referred to as basic.

Whilst the naturally neutral pH level of any substance is equal to 7, the pH level of a vagina is usually somewhere between 3.8 and 4.5. This makes the vagina slightly acidic.

It’s important to note what is regarded as normal does vary.

Factors such as the age and overall health of an individual would play a huge part in that. For example, from the late teens up until approximately age 50, the vaginal pH balance should be below or equal to 4.5. After menopause that level is usually higher.

Why is it so important?

Every part of the human body has a desired pH level.

The amazingness of the body means it is designed that way in order to fulfil its function. For example, the pH level of the stomach is likely to be more acidic than most other parts of the body because it is necessary for the purposes of digestion.

To illustrate the importance of pH levels further, consider the blood that pumps around the body. Whenever there is even so much as a slight imbalance in pH level in the blood, an individual can expect to feel sick and uncomfortable. The effects are instant!

Similarly with the vagina, if the pH level is interfered with, the fallout becomes known fairly quickly.

An unbalanced vaginal pH level

The vagina is home to Lactobacilli and Anaerobes—two naturally occurring bacteria. Lactobacilli, also known as good vaginal bacteria, generally rules the roost. One of its main functions is to control the growth of Anaerobes, otherwise known as the not-so-good bacteria. If the Lactobacilli count decreases, the Anaerobes have the opportunity to increase. At this point, the desired pH level has been compromised.

The vagina is considered slightly acidic as it has a lower pH level.

This is actually a form of protection. Keeping the pH level lower keeps the Lactobacilli happy and thus maintains a good balance between the good and bad bacteria.

Should the vaginal pH level rise above 4.5, it quite literally becomes the perfect breeding ground for unhealthy bacteria to thrive.

The most common outcome of the overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria in the vagina is Bacterial vaginosis (BV).

Bacterial vaginosis affects up to one in three women and is usually a mild infection that is characterised by a fishy odour. It can also be coupled with an unusual discharge that may appear white or even yellowish in colour. Some women even experience vaginal itching, irritation or discomfort when passing urine.

Whilst an individual may experience one or more symptoms, it is also worth noting that up to 75% of women diagnosed with having BV, don’t actually experience any.

A doctor or medical professional would be able to make a BV diagnosis once a sample is taken and analysed in a laboratory.

Once diagnosed, the condition is usually treated with antibiotics because if left untreated, further health complications could come about. These may include; being more susceptible to STIs, pelvic inflammatory disease, which is an infection of the reproductive organs and/or complications during pregnancy.

Throwing off the vaginal pH balance

The human body is organic, so naturally, the pH balance of the vagina may become unbalanced on occasion. When that happens, it will usually rectify itself. However, there are things that have been proven to throw the vaginal pH balance off.

  • Douching

Whilst hygiene is crucial, it is important to know that the vagina is a self-cleaning organ. Therefore, spraying water inside it for the purposes of cleaning, is not necessary. This is essentially what happens when an individual engages in douching.

Douching directly impacts the pH level of the vagina by blasting out all the good bacteria. As a result, an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria is likely.

  • Unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners

The semen released during unprotected sex is actually alkaline. The vagina also deems it as a foreign body. Both these reasons together with the fact that new pathogens are introduced through penetration can encourage the growth of unhealthy bacteria thus causing an imbalance in the pH levels.

Having sex with multiple partners also exposes the vagina to foreign bacteria especially if fluid is released inside. The foreign bacteria will ultimately increase the amount of unfriendly bacteria already present. This will in turn increase the natural pH balance as a result of the disruption.

  • Using vaginal products

As much as some vaginal products smell sweet and inviting, the reality is a lot of the ingredients have the potential to upset the natural pH levels.

Again, it’s important to remember that the vagina is self-cleaning and does not need to be cleaned from the inside out. Perfumed products, in particular can be alkaline which is not what the vagina needs!

The vulva and area around the vagina can indeed be cleansed with products of choice, but individuals should be extra careful not to get any of the product inside.

  • Taking antibiotics

Antibiotics are used to kill harmful bacteria, but the flipside of that is good bacteria are eradicated too! And yes, this does extend to the bacteria found in the vagina.

As a result of this bacterial onslaught, an individual’s vaginal pH balance may be altered.

  • Having a period

By its very nature, blood is alkaline, with a pH level sitting just above 7. When an individual has a period, the expelled blood is absorbed by a tampon or pad. This can reduce the acidity level in the vagina, which in turn causes the natural vaginal pH balance to be thrown off.

For the most part, once the period is over, the pH levels will return to normal. However, because of the temporary increase in unhealthy bacteria, it is common for women to experience yeast-based irritations around the time of their period too.

Sex life and pH levels

Whilst there is no obvious direct correlation between pleasurable sex and vaginal pH levels, it’s fair to presume that if the levels are where they should be, an individual is likely to enjoy sex more. Because let’s be honest, nobody wants to be conscious of a potentially fishy fanny because their levels are off, nor would anyone want to feel the incessant need to scratch at themselves in an attempt to ease an itch gained due to an unbalanced pH level.

Minimising your risk of throwing your pH levels off whilst engaging in sex, is definitely where it’s at.

Vaginal pH balance-friendly sex

Use protection during intercourse. A new penis carries its own set of bacteria and thus has the potential to alter pH.

Sex toys: Whether you are using a toy for penetration or simply for stimulation, ensuring the toy is super clean is crucial.

Fingering: Make sure any finger that is to be inserted into your vagina is clean. Look out for hanging nails and broken skin too, as they could harbour additional unwanted bacteria.

Pee after sex! Yes, it’s something that has been said a million times or more, but the benefits make sense. The expulsion of urine during after sex acts as a natural douche that flushes out unwanted bacteria from the urinary tract and surrounding area.

pH levels and pregnancy

Having a healthy vaginal pH balance not only feels good but is a huge factor if you’re trying to get pregnant.

Sperm thrive in an alkaline environment, and anything below 7 is actually hostile to them. The usual pH level of a vagina is slightly acidic; therefore, it’s not exactly semen friendly.

However, because the human body is so fantastically intuitive, the pH of the vagina actually increases during sex to a more alkaline level thus protecting any potential sperm making its way to the egg.

Once semen is released into the vagina, the aftermath can be a temporarily unbalanced pH level, but as we’ve also already seen, the vagina is very well equipped to rebalance itself without our interference.

There will be the occasional times when the balance does get upset though.

Keeping that vaginal pH balance, balanced!

For those wanting to ensure they are in touch with the health of their vagina pH level home testing kits are available. These kits can help you become familiarised with what is normal for you and potential cycles of change.

There are of course, many ways an individual can help to keep the pH balance right where it should be.

In summary:

Avoid douching and don’t use scented soaps to cleanse the vagina.

Use barrier protection during PIV (penis in vagina) sex, and always ensure any sex toys that you may use are clean.

Make sure any fingers that find their way inside your vagina are clean!

Change any tampons or sanitary napkins regularly.

Avoid always wearing tight clothing.

Eat healthily, drink lots of water and keep stress to a minimum.

Use probiotics, especially after taking a course of antibiotics.

Final words on vaginal pH balance

Also known as the bacterial collective that resides in the vagina, it can still feel very taboo to talk about the vaginal microbiome. However, it’s so important that we do.

Vaginal health should be a priority in exactly the same way as any other body part.

Understanding the vagina and the pH levels will undoubtedly make an individual’s life easier.

There will be times when pH levels fluctuate due to the natural organic behaviour of the body. Knowing your body and how it performs is the first step in preventing infections, discomfort and undesirable situations.

Comments & Sharing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *