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When it comes to managing the many moving parts in your life—emotional and physical health, work, family, diet, hobbies, friends, sleep, et al—it's difficult to keep it all straight. And, chances are, you're not necessarily prioritizing the health of your vagina above all else. You're busy! The truth is, while it's resilient on its own, sometimes it needs a little help.
The vagina does a great job self-maintaining—and will give you signals when something’s wrong. That's where your pH levels come in. Abnormal levels can bring on a litany of symptoms, but knowing the warning signs is your best bet to maintaining your pH. Below find everything you need to know about your pH levels and how to best maintain your own vaginal health.
Understanding Your Vaginal pH Levels
You probably remember doing experiments in chemistry using colored litmus paper. The pH spectrum ranged from acidic at zero, completely neutral in the middle at seven, and basic on the other end at 14. The same can be applied to your body. In a healthy body running at peak effectiveness, pH levels normally fall between 7.35 to 7.45. Your vagina, though, leans more on the acidic side, normally measuring between 3.8 to 4.5 and has its own microbiome containing “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria. This acidity mainly comes from Lactobacilli—a completely necessary bacteria that releases hydrogen peroxide as well as lactic acid. It relies on that acid to fight against “bad" bacteria, fungi, and anything else that might put the health of your vagina at risk.
So, what should your pH level be and what happen if it's out of whack? Well, it’s said that your levels should be between 3.8 to 4.5 and anything outside of this zone could be detrimental to the health of your vagina.
Common Causes of Abnormal Vaginal pH Levels
Whether it’s before the start of your period or after experiencing menopause, those who have a pH balance over 4.5 are outside normal levels. The less acidic your vagina, the less lactic acid there is living in your vagina to combat infection. On the other hand, more acid won’t necessarily cause the development of any kind of infection or condition, but it may affect your fertility. Women in their reproductive years who have a pH level below 3.8 are more likely to deal with issues getting pregnant. With that in mind, it's helpful to educate yourself on what may be going on. Below, find seven reasons why your vaginal pH may be fluctuating.
Your pH levels may fluctuate during menstruation. Your period raises the alkaline in your vagina and can be affected by products like tampons (as they hold your blood for hours at a time).
#2 Bacterial Vaginosis
This condition causes high levels of specific types of bacteria in your vagina, which can cause itching, burning, pain, odor, painful urination, and other issues. Though, depending on the severity, these symptoms may not be seen in some women. While not contagious, those who experience B.V., unfortunately, may see it come back around more than once.
Though they are needed to clear up infection, antibiotics also affect your balance while doing their job and can remove the “good” bacteria required for a healthy, acidic vagina.
#4 Urinary Tract Infection
Elevated pH levels may make you more susceptible to a UTI, which can bring on some gnarly symptoms like abdominal pain, frequent bathroom visits, and a burning sensation when urinating.
Advertising and marketing make it seem like douching is a necessity for improved vaginal health. However, douching allows even more bacteria to grow and is warned against by most health professionals.
Reduced estrogen levels (especially in women with menopause) can result in the elevation of your pH levels, thus, making your vagina less acidic—just as it was during your puberty days.
#8 Certain infections
Whether sexually transmitted or otherwise, a change in vaginal pH levels could be a sign that you have an infection.
How To Keep Things Running Smoothly
Your vagina is pretty damn amazing—not only is it a source of pleasure and life, but it also can self-maintain. Sometimes, though, things that seem insignificant can affect that, which is why your vaginal pH balance is so important.
To keep your vagina healthy and happy: Don’t douche unless your doctor has specified otherwise, find cleansing products that won’t affect your natural balance, change your menstrual products often, take probiotics, and be sure to visit your OB/GYN regularly to treat any problem at the first sign of trouble.