Most of you tend to not give much importance to vaginal health. Mainly because we are hardly taught about it. The vagina comprises bacteria and yeasts that specialise in keeping it healthy. They create and maintain the perfect acidic environment that prevents infections. But, what does “perfect” mean here? Let’s talk about it here.
7 Things You Need To Know About pH Balance In Your Body
- It is the measure of the basic (alkaline) or acidic nature of a substance.
- The pH scale ranges between 0 and 14, with zero being extremely acidic and 14 being extremely basic or alkaline.
- The ideal pH of vaginal fluid is between 3.8 and 4.5, which is moderately acidic.
- The pH level changes with age and health.
- Your vagina contains certain bacteria and yeast that helps maintain the right acidic balance down there.
- This prevents the development of vaginal infections.
- A vaginal pH level beyond the moderate acidic level is the right breeding ground for infections.
4 Things You Need To Know About Vaginal pH
- Like for all other parts of your body that needs to maintain its acidic level, the range for normal pH of vaginal fluid is between 3.8 and 4.5.
- This normal pH range can vary depending on your age. For instance, the pH level should be below or equal to 4.5 during your reproductive years, that is, between 15 to 49.
- The acidic environment in the vagina creates a barrier for unhealthy bacteria and yeast from breeding speedily and resulting in infections.
- A high vaginal pH level of over 4.5 makes for the perfect environment for infections like bacterial vaginosis (BV) and Trichomoniasis.
5 Possible Vaginal pH Imbalance Causes
1. Menstrual Cycle
Different phases of your menstrual cycle, whether you’re pregnant, or have hit menopause – all these can affect your vaginal pH balance. Vaginal pH during pregnancy alters to a great extent from what it was earlier and what it will become afterwards.
Douching refers to the process of cleaning the inside of your vagina with a pre-packaged mixture with a tool that accompanies the package. This is different from cleaning your vagina with water and a mild soap. Douching can increase your vaginal pH.
3. Certain Medications
Antibiotic drugs can raise your vaginal pH because it destroys all types of bacteria, both good and bad. Birth control pills might also change the normal vaginal pH balance for some women, which may lead to infections.
Lubricants serve the purpose of reducing dryness in the vagina during sex. However, some lubes contain a pH balance of over 4.5. This alkalinity kills healthy bacteria, thus, developing into an infection.
Condoms do not only prevent unwanted pregnancies and STIs but also act as a barrier to altering the natural pH balance. Semen is alkaline and, hence, can change the acidity of your vagina. Vaginal pH during pregnancy changes from what it was before and it will be post-pregnancy.
5 Possible Vaginal pH Imbalance Symptoms
At times, the symptoms of a pH imbalance of the vagina may be asymptomatic, that is, it does not manifest itself through symptoms. At other times when you do experience symptoms, they are typically of an infection. Such symptoms are as below. However, you may not experience all these symptoms when you’ve developed a medical condition.
- Fishy smell from the vagina
- Green, grey, or foamy vaginal discharge
- Swelling, irritation, or itchiness around the vagina
- Burning sensation during urination
- Pain or burning sensation in the vagina during intercourse
3 Health Conditions That May Occur Due To Abnormal Vaginal pH
1. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
This is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria, which results in a “fishy” odour, along with white, grey, or yellow vaginal discharge. It may also result in vaginal itchiness and a burning sensation during urination. The infection isn’t harmful by itself but women with this condition are more prone to developing serious infections like HIV, herpes simplex virus, or human papillomavirus (HPV).
This is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that usually doesn’t manifest itself through symptoms, but increases the risk of HIV and other STDs that are severe in nature.
3. Reduced Fertility
Excessive acidity might affect fertility among women because the ideal environment for sperms to thrive is alkaline. The optimal pH for sperms to thrive and swim is 7 to 8.5.
7 Preventive Tips & Natural Remedies For Vaginal pH Imbalance
Some natural ways to balance vaginal pH are as below:
Probiotics like yoghurt and buttermilk, along with a balanced diet, are essential for maintaining the natural vaginal pH balance and for overall health. Make sure to include enough of these fermented foods in your daily diet or opt for supplements to provide your body with this much-needed nutrient to maintain the normal pH balance.
Rich in anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, garlic helps keep vaginal infections at bay. However, this is only meant for oral consumption and not for application in or around the vagina.
3. Drink Water
This is undeniably one of the most natural ways to restore vaginal pH. Dehydration often causes itchiness around the vagina or aggravates yeast infections. Drinking water, on the other hand, flushes out toxins and maintains your vagina’s ecosystem. Ensure that you drink about 3 litres of water daily.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
Yet another food with antifungal and antibacterial properties, you can include apple cider vinegar in your diet in the form of a supplement or in a diluted drink. Applying it in or around your vagina is a strict no-no because it may be harmful to the pH balance and the vaginal tissues.
5. Control The Intake Of Sugar
Increased levels of sugar in the body raise the pH levels in your body or lead to yeast growth. When you have a sugar craving, replace the foods with unhealthy sugars with sweet fruits like apples, papaya, etc.
6. Wear Cotton Underwear
If you aren’t in the habit of wearing cotton underwear, switch to these immediately. Cotton is breathable and prevents sweating, the accumulation of which raises the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) and vaginal infections.
7. Use Condoms
Having unprotected sex generally increases the pH of the vagina because semen is alkaline in nature. Therefore, using a condom is a must, unless you are planning to conceive.
When To See A Doctor?
You need to visit a doctor if you have been experiencing any of the following over prolonged periods of time:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Burning sensation
- Foul odour
Your doctor may conduct some medical tests to check the pH of your vagina and diagnose if you have developed a vaginal infection.
Vaginal pH imbalance is more common than you think and requires more attention than what you usually give to it. Without treatment within the right time, it may turn into a more serious health condition. So, follow the preventive tips discussed earlier to maintain a healthy vaginal pH balance.
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