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Your vaginal pH plays an important role in the overall health of your vagina. The good bacteria in the vagina thrive in its acidic environment, specifically a pH between 3.8 to 4.5. A high vaginal pH creates an alkaline environment that allows ‘bad’ bacteria and yeast to rapidly grow, causing infections like bacterial vaginosis (BV), yeast infections, and trichomoniasis.
Your pH is normally within the healthy range, but depending on your reproductive age, your pH may be on the lower or higher end of these normal limits. While in your reproductive years, your pH should be 4.5 or lower. However, right before and during your period, and after menopause, your pH may be higher than 4.5. Vaginal pH also rises during sex to accommodate traveling sperm, to help with fertility. Sperm is alkaline and a lot of sperm are destroyed in the vagina due to its acidic environment. This temporary increase in pH helps protect the sperm making their way to fertilize an egg.
Things that can disrupt your vaginal pH:
-Antibiotics: Antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria that help maintain a healthy vaginal pH
-Douching: This washes away the good bacteria, putting you at increased risk for infection and irritation.
-Menstrual cycle: Blood is alkaline and increases the vaginal pH when it is absorbed and sits in place when using a pad or tampon.
-Unprotected sex: As I said earlier, semen is alkaline and the vagina increases its pH to help sperm travel for fertilization.
-Fragrances: Soaps, washes, deodorants, and other scented products that come in contact with or near the vagina can cause irritation and disrupt its pH, especially if any get into the vaginal canal.
Signs your pH may be off:
-itching in or near the vagina
-a fishy smell or bad odor
-burning with urination
-change in discharge consistency or color
**Talk with your healthcare provider if you are experiencing any of these symptoms for treatment options.
Follow these tips to maintain a healthy pH:
-Keep products that are not pH-appropriate away from your vagina. These include scented soaps, perfumes, detergents, and other irritants, products containing glycerin (which can cause an overgrowth of yeast causing a yeast infection), among other products.
-Take a probiotic…especially if you are on an antibiotic. Even if you’re not on antibiotics, it’s a good idea to take a daily probiotic to help maintain and restore a healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina.
-Use a condom. If you’re not in a monogamous relationship, it’s always a great idea to use protection to avoid unwanted pregnancy and STIs. Even if you’re only with one partner, condom use can help keep those alkaline semen from messing with your pH.
-Leave the douche on the shelf. I can’t stress this enough! Vaginas clean themselves, and douching washes away the good and bad bacteria, not only increasing your pH, but leaving you vulnerable to infection.
-Regular visits to your gynecologist. To help maintain your vaginal health and correct any issues before they become severe, make sure to have regular visits with your gynecologist, and be honest with them about any symptoms you may be experiencing.
Trust me I get it, when something feels off down there it’s almost like everything else in life is affected. I mean who can focus when your vagina just doesn’t feel right? Make sure to follow these tips to help keep your vaginal health in check, and if something does seem off, contact your healthcare provider for treatment options instead of trying to figure it out on your own. We want you to feel empowered to be your own feminine health advocate, and a big part of that is educating yourself on what’s right (and not right) with YOUR specific body, so you know what treatment options are available to you. And remember, not every treatment option has to be medication.
Brooklyn is a Post-Partum/Mother-Baby and Pediatric Registered Nurse, turned stay-at-home mom, who is making it her mission to keep women informed on how their individual bodies work, so that they can be their own feminine health advocate when something is ‘off’ for them. All bodies are different, and women need to know that what’s normal for others may not be normal for them, and vice versa. She has personally battled with post-partum depression, vaginal and vulva dryness, dyspareunia, and was placed in medically induced menopause in her mid-20s to try to find relief for some of these symptoms. Talking to friends and family was difficult, as many of them couldn’t relate to these issues. She is now focused on educating women about their bodies, so that they feel empowered to become their own feminine health and sexual wellness advocate when dealing with a healthcare system that oftentimes doesn’t take them or their symptoms seriously. Her mission to stop women, especially Black women, from suffering in silence and help them find their voice when it comes to their feminine health.