The vagina has a very delicate ecosystem. After the bowel, the vagina contains the most bacteria in the body. The function of this bacteria is to maintain the vagina’s pH between 3.8-4.5 in order to remain balanced and healthy.
Maintaining a good vaginal pH prevents the overgrowth of yeast and bacteria that thrive in a less acidic environment. Semen can upset your vaginal pH balance because the pH levels of semen are higher than the pH levels of vaginas. When Semen enters the picture, this can mess with the growth of healthy bacteria aka vaginal flora.
Unprotected penetrative sex with a man changes the pH of your vagina because semen has a pH of between 7.1 and 8. During sex, the pH of your vagina rises in order to create a more alkaline environment to protect the sperm and encourage fertilization. This can also encourage the growth of certain bacteria. While this rise in pH is immensely helpful for conception, it does open you up to the risk of infection.
Some of the steps you can take to avoid this complicated relationship are:
- Use condoms. By doing so, semen is not introduced to the vaginal canal
- Always pee after sex to flush out some of the semen
- If you're prone to yeast infections, try making a shift in your diet. Cutting out sugar and carbs can help to get your gut and vaginal health back on a healthy track, thus limiting these infections and creating a healthy pH balance
- Wash with warm water, but keep in mind that the pH of water is 7 (wow, I know) so this can potentially contribute to any infection however chances are slim
- Last but not least, never douche and don't use soap with dye or perfumes. You'll want to use a product that is safe for your most sensitive areas (like the vulva) and is fragrance free – the pH Balancing Cleanser is the perfect fit!
Here's to a hopefully not so complicated relationship in the future!
Dr. Jodie Horton