The vagina is a picky machine, and if something goes wrong, the whole operation can get out of whack fairly quickly. Your pH levels are an important part of vaginal health and wellness, and while most everything down there is self regulating, problems can occur if you’re off balance. So how do you keep your pH in check?
What does it mean when something is talking about pH balance of the vagina? If you remember anything from 9th grade science, the pH (power of hydrogen) balance of an object is the measure of the acidity in an object from 1 to 14, with 7 being neutral. A healthy vaginal pH balance is between 3.5 and 4.5, which makes it slightly more acidic than neutral. Why is it more acidic? Because of the good bacteria living up there! They produce lactic acid, and that reduces the pH value.
When we think of acidity, it’s mostly negative, but in the vagina’s case it is needed. Bad bacteria prefer a less acidic environment to grow in, so if the acidity goes down, the chance of infection goes up. Because of these reasons (and the higher risk of UTI) those with vaginas are taught from childhood to wipe front to back after using the toilet.
Other than proper bathroom hygiene, how do you keep your pH balance from going out of whack? For one, keep anything sugary away from the vagina. Put the bottle of whipped cream down and try to stay away from any flavored lubricants that have any form of sugar in it (look for glycerin in the ingredients). While it may seem like a fun idea to put yummy tasting foods up there for your partner to lick out, in the long run it will more than likely disrupt your pH and cause you grief.
Douching is not a good idea. While it make things feel cleaner temporarily, it can very much disturb the natural flow of things. Douching does clean out things in the vagina, but it also takes away the good bacteria that keeps things running smoothly. And no, douching does not help prevent pregnancy or any STIs. Considering feminine washes? Those are for external use only so don’t get all up in there and scrub every inch. The vagina is self-cleaning! Have a strong odor problem? Keep those perfumes away! If the odor is super strong or you’re noticing other unusual symptoms, see a doctor. If not, hey it’s the vagina! It’s not supposed to smell like roses!
Another thing that you might not think about is the type of underwear that you wear. It might not be sexy, but for every day wear it is best to stick with a cotton underwear, and nothing too tight. Tight, spandex underwear and thongs tend to rub, prevent air flow and trap bad bacteria, so give your vagina a chance to breathe! Also when you get your period make sure to change your tampons and pads every few hours to lower your risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, and also because blood has a higher pH than a healthy vagina. Speaking of tampons and pads- once again, stay away from the perfumed and scented products!
If you’re not sure if there’s a problem, how do you tell if your pH is off? For one, the vagina is going to get very itchy and start to have a bad odor. It can cause pain while peeing, pain during sex, and a thick, white, vaginal discharge that typically doesn’t have a bad smell on its own. There are over the counter medications that can be taken if it isn’t severe, but if those don’t work, go in to the doctor. You should regularly get everything checked out down below anyway, but just like any other illness, if the vagina is out of whack, it needs to be checked out!
As long as you steer clear of the troublemakers listed above, you and your vagina can worry about other things. Stay safe and play safe!