Maintaining a healthy pH balance down there is crucial for your overall well-being, comfort and confidence. After all we know that a happy vagina means a happy you so let’s talk about what the vaginal pH is, why it’s important and the effects changes in pH can have on your vaginal health.
What is pH and why does it need to balance?
Just like a delicate ecosystem, your vaginal area has its own unique balance. Vaginal pH refers to the acidity or alkalinity level. Normally, the pH leavel of a healthy vagina hangs out in the slightly acidic range, around 3.8 to 4.5, which is the right type of environment for good bacteria to thrive. This perfect pH balance helps the beneficial bacteria ward off the bad guys, like harmful bacteria and yeast, keeping your intimate zone in tip-top shape. Think of it as your body's own way of maintaining a harmonious environment.
What should my vagina pH be and how can I test it?
pH is measured on a scale of 1 to 14 with 7 being exactly in the middle and is basically water. 1 is acidic and 14 alkaline. The optimal pH for your vagina actually sits on the acidic side at around 3.8 to 4.5. The acidity in the vagina comes from Lactobacilli, the good bacteria which is designed to protect against infections and maintain a healthy pH. But how do we know our pH is at the right level and what should we do if we have concerns?
- pH test kits are readily available from your local chemist or online.
- If you are concerned you may have a UTI or other type of infection there are many at-home testing kits available such as those offered by Randox or Canesten Their analysis can cover 20 prevalent bacterial and fungal pathogens, along with analysing antibiotic resistance genes in urine. This comprehensive approach helps individuals get an insight into their bladder microbiome which is often linked to the vaginal one.
What can disrupt the vaginal pH?
Several factors can throw off your vaginal pH balance some of these can cause issues even though they are a normal part of our day to day
- Douching: although this can be seen as a way to “cleanse”, douching can do more harm than good. It disrupts the natural pH balance, stripping away the beneficial bacteria which can potentially cause irritation and infections.
- Harsh soaps: our lady parts are sensitive and harsh soaps or cleansers can upset the delicate balance of our vaginal pH. Opt for mild, fragrance-free options to keep your pH happy. For more information about how soaps can impact your vaginal microbiome read our blog here.
- Antibiotics: We’ve all been there. While antibiotics are essential for fighting bacterial infections, they can also disturb the vaginal flora by killing off both the harmful and beneficial bacteria, cue the yeast infection! The disruption caused by stripping out the good bacteria along with the bad can lead to more issues such as yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis (more on that another day). Using a product that helps maintain a healthy pH can support your vaginal microbiome whilst on antibiotics helping to avoid the other nasties.
- Alkalisers - alkalisers are often prescribed to treat the symptoms of a UTI. These can change the acidity of the vagina causing an imbalance of the vaginal pH.
- Hormonal changes: hormonal fluctuations during different life stages, such as pregnancy, menopause, or menstruation can affect your vaginal pH. These changes can make you more susceptible to infections so it’s important to pay extra attention to your vaginal health during these times.
What happens when my pH loses its balance?
When there is a change in the vaginal pH, several things can happen that can affect the day to day
- Increased risk of infections: a shift towards a higher pH (less acidic) may disrupt the balance of bacteria in the vagina, potentially allowing harmful bacteria or yeast to multiply. This imbalance can lead to conditions such as yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis (BV)
- Odor and discharge changes: changes in pH can alter the odor and consistency of vaginal discharge. An imbalance may result in an unpleasant odor or change in discharge colour or texture.
- Discomfort or itching: an altered pH can cause irritation, itching, or discomfort in the vaginal area. This can be a symptom of various vaginal infections.
- Increase susceptibility to STIs: a disrupted vaginal pH may increase susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as the protective barrier provided by the acidic environment is compromised.
How do I maintain a healthy vaginal pH?
Now that we know what can affect the vaginal pH and disrupt the harmony of the vaginal flora, let’s focus on some friendly solutions to keep everything in check:
- Embrace good hygiene habit: stick to a gentle, fragrance-free soap for your external genital area. Remember, your vagina is self-cleaning, so avoid using any products inside it. Look out for the microbiome-friendly badge on body wash products as a guide to help you.
- Say no to douching: bid farewell to douching altogether. Your vagina is a self-regulating wonder, and it knows how to keep itself clean. Simply rinse the external area with warm water.
- Choose breathable fabrics: opt for breathable underwear with a cotton gusset and loose-fitting clothing. This allows for proper airflow, minimising moisture and potential infections.
- Stay hydrated: drinking plenty of water helps flush out toxins from your body, contributing to overall vaginal health. Remember a hydrated body leads to a happy pH!
- Be mindful of sexual practices: unprotected sex or frequent changes in sexual partners can disrupt your vaginal pH balance. Practicing safe sex and maintaining good sexual hygiene can help minimise the impact.
- Probiotics to the rescue!: probiotic supplements or foods rich in probiotics like yoghurt and kefir can help maintain a healthy vaginal pH by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. Opting for a probiotic intimate serum such as P.Happi® that is applied to the targeted area can help to restore and protect the vaginal pH by keeping out bad bacteria whilst protecting the good guys.
Taking care of your vaginal pH doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By incorporating simple practices into your routine, you can ensure a harmonious balance and a happy, healthy vagina. It’s all about keeping up good hygiene, staying mindful of potential disruptors and giving your body the care, and attention it deserves. Your vaginal pH will thank you and remember don’t worry pee happy!