First things first: what is vaginal pH actually? Remember how in chemistry, the pH of something determines how basic or acidic it is? The same concept applies to the pH of the vagina. It is directly related to how healthy your vagina is. A healthy vaginal pH ranges from 3.5 to 4.5. If you are healthy, it should regulate itself and is kept in this acidic range. When your pH is unhealthy, you will then likely notice an unpleasant odour which signals an imbalance like a bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection.
The first thing you must understand about vaginal pH is that when it’s healthy, it protects you from infection. There are two good types of bacteria that help achieve this: lactobacilli and corynebacterium. They regulate and dominate the vulvovaginal ecosystem by taking up full residence and keeping out unwanted ‘guests’ such as yeast and bad bacteria. So, when a woman’s pH is unbalanced, she becomes more at risk to yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis and even sexually transmitted diseases.
How can you know if your pH is unhealthy?
The two key signs to knowing if your pH is unhealthy are: odour and discharge. There are three diseases typically associated with unhealthy vaginal pH and these are:
*bacterial vaginosis (BV)
*candidiasis (yeast infection)
These three conditions can be unpleasant due to foul odour, itching and excessive discharge. BV and trich, for instance, can produce a fishy odour and milky discharge, while yeast overgrowth can produce a cottage cheese-like discharge that smells like bread or beer.
Can they be treated?
Fortunately, these infections are manageable and surprising, quite common. Nearly 75% of all adult women have had at least one yeast infection in a lifetime, and bacterial vaginosis is known to be the most common vaginal infection in women ages 15-45. You don’t have to be sexually active to have these conditions. If you are, however, sexually active, you may experience trich – considered the most common curable STD.
What causes vaginal pH changes?
Vaginal pH can change without known causes, but there are still various factors that can affect it. If you know what those factors are, you can help keep your vagina healthy enough for it to regulate itself.
Overall heath can definitely affect one’s vaginal pH as well as hormonal status. Women who are kept well hydrated, follow a well-balanced diet, and practice safe sex have a normal vaginal pH. Take note that the use of harsh soaps within the vulvar and vaginal areas can be harmful to your vaginal health. Douching is also not recommended as it tends to wash out the ‘good’ bacteria that keep the vagina protected.