pH is a measurement of how acidic or basic a substance is. The pH scale ranges from 0-14 and anything below 7 is considered acidic while anything above 7 is considered basic.
So why does this matter when thinking about the vagina? Your vaginal pH plays a huge role in maintaining a healthy balance in the vagina and can give your doctor major clues as to why your vaginal balance may be off. When this balance is off, it can lead to vaginitis which is an inflammation of the vaginal tissue.
The normal range for vaginal pH depends on your age, but is typically in the 3.8-4.5 range. As you can notice, this is in the acidic range, as an acidic vagina acts as a protective barrier. Before menopause, women have higher estrogen levels, which helps promote healthy bacteria like lactobacillus. Lactobacillus feeds on well estrogenized vaginal tissue to produce acid, thus keeping the vagina in the acidic range. This healthy acidic range helps prevent harmful bacteria and yeast from multiplying quickly and causing inflammation and infection. When the vaginal pH becomes more basic, ie a higher vaginal pH level, this creates an environment for unhealthy bacteria to grow and puts you at risk for bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis.
Therefore it’s so important to maintain a balanced vagina. Things that can cause an imbalance include semen, prolonged antibiotics, douching, and your period. Semen is very basic, meaning that it decreases the acidity of the vagina, thus allowing harmful bacteria to creep in. That’s why it’s so important to clean the vagina with water and to use a gentle cleanser on the outside of the vagina after sex. Other ways you can maintain a normal pH is by taking a probiotic which is full of the good bacteria, lactobacillus, which helps promote the protective acidic vaginal environment. It’s all about maintaining that perfect balance!
I hope this helps clear up a few misconceptions regarding vaginal pH!
Take care down there!
Dr. Shweta Pai