The Ultimate Vaginal pH Balance Guide
What Is pH Balance?
You may or may not have heard the term "pH balance" referred to in vaginal health. The truth is, vaginal health completely revolves around pH balance. But what exactly is pH balance and why is it so important?
pH is a measurement of how acidic or alkaline a substance is. A normal vaginal pH typically ranges from 3.8 - 4.5, which is considered more on the acidic side. Your vagina typically does a pretty good job of regulating itself within this range. Problems arise when your vaginal pH gets thrown out of this range. More on this later.
To give you an idea as to how the pH of a vagina compares to everyday items, see the chart below.
What is considered a "normal" vaginal pH can vary based on different factors such as the stage of life you're at and the status of your health.
For example, pH levels tend to be higher before or during a woman's menstrual cycle, and after menopause. It's common that during these stages pH levels are higher than 4.5. During reproductive years, typically ages 15 to 49, pH is typically below or equal to 4.5.
Why pH Balance Matters
Now that we know exactly what pH balance is, let’s talk about the importance of pH balance and why it plays such a large role in feminine health.
Because vaginal pH balance is what allows your vagina to function best, it’s the main driving force that keeps your vagina healthy and regulated. By staying regulated, you can keep healthy bacteria and yeast at optimal levels so bad bacteria and yeast don’t grow out of control.
This is why your feminine hygiene routine is so important in order to keep your pH balanced. If you don’t have a go-to hygiene routine with pH balanced products, your pH balance can be thrown off quite easily and often, which can lead to recurring issues and discomfort.
Common Signs & Symptoms Of pH Imbalance
So how do you recognize signs and symptoms of pH imbalance?
If you’ve never experienced pH imbalance before, signs can be difficult to spot at first. You might feel like something down there is off, but may not be able to pinpoint exactly what it is or what’s causing it. It’s important to note that signs and symptoms are not always the same for everyone.
Common signs and symptoms of pH balance include but are not limited to:
- Abnormal discharge
- Burning during urination
- Painful sex
Common Causes Of pH Imbalance
pH imbalance can happen in a lot of different ways. Women go through different stages in life which come with changes in the body that cause pH imbalance to happen naturally. There are also causes of pH imbalance due to things like poor hygiene practices that can be prevented.
Menstrual blood has a pH of 7.4. This is much higher on the pH scale than the normal pH of a vagina. When your vagina comes in contact with blood, it will raise your pH level and leave you susceptible to pH imbalance during or after your menstrual cycle.
During menopause, it’s natural that a woman’s pH levels are higher. Studies have found that women in menopause had an average vaginal pH of 5.3. Women’s bodies change significantly during menopause, including hormone levels. With hormones like estrogen fluctuating quite a bit, this can also affect vaginal pH.
During pregnancy, a lot is happening with a woman’s body. Constant hormone fluctuations can easily disrupt pH balance which causes pregnant women to be very susceptible to vaginal infections. It’s also true that fertility issues can occur when a woman doesn’t have regulated pH levels.
- Hormone changes
Hormone changes can occur even when a woman is not in menopause or pregnant. This can be due to certain underlying medical conditions or lifestyle choices. Similar to when a woman is pregnant or in menopause, these hormone fluctuations can cause pH imbalances.
Having sex with a male partner can contribute to pH imbalance because semen has a much higher pH than a normal vaginal environment. pH of semen usually falls between 7.2 - 7.8, so when having unprotected sex, your natural vaginal environment can easily be thrown off.
- Douching or Steaming
It is absolutely not necessary to douche or steam your vagina to keep it healthy! Your vagina is capable of self-cleansing and douching or steaming is only going to throw off your natural vaginal environment.
Believe it or not, antibiotics are a common culprit for yeast infections. This is because not only do they destroy bad bacteria, but they also destroy good bacteria that help support your natural vaginal environment. The good bacteria are your friends, you don’t want to destroy them too! If you’re ever prescribed antibiotics, pairing them with a probiotic can help to maintain a healthy and natural balance.
- Poor Diet
Having a healthy diet with whole, nutritious foods is so important when it comes to maintaining a healthy pH balance. Foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics are a bonus! Diets full of processed foods, excess sugars, excess caffeine or alcohol are harmful to not only your body, but your vagina as well.
- Poor-Quality Feminine Care
Poor quality feminine products are some of the most common culprits that can mess with your pH levels. This includes any sort of scented soaps, scented wipes, vaginal perfumes, and douches. Stick to more natural products that don’t have a long list of unnecessary or toxic ingredients.
The type of underwear that you wear affects your vaginal health more than you might think. Cotton underwear is best for breathability and absorbency. Materials like nylon or spandex don’t allow your vagina to breathe and are not as absorbent, which traps in moisture and heat.
This is a recipe for an infection. Thongs are also recommended to be avoided because the skin around your vagina is delicate and can be easily irritated. They also increase your risk for infections like BV, yeast infections or UTIs due to bacteria from the anal area transferring to your vagina when your thong slides around.
On the topic of underwear, not changing your underwear frequently can also be a cause for concern. It’s especially important that you change it after sweating. Once a day is generally a good rule of thumb.
- Tight Clothing
Wearing tight clothing, especially for long periods of time can also jeopardize your pH balance. Similar to poor underwear material, tight clothing can cause moisture and heat to be trapped around your vagina, which is a breeding ground for bacteria. Not to mention it can also cause major vaginal irritation.
Wearing a wet swimsuit or wet clothing for an extended period of time can have the same affect.
When To See Your Doctor
It’s always important to see your doctor when you notice something is going on down there, especially if you’re experiencing changes in your vaginal health that aren’t normal for you.
For women that are experiencing this for the first time, it’s especially important to consult with your doctor as soon as possible to figure out what the problem is and how to get a handle on it.
If you’re a frequent flier at your OB/GYN and have recurring issues, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor openly about it and learn what your options are.
If things seem to stay pretty regular, don’t forget that a yearly checkup with your OB/GYN for a preventive screening is just as important to make sure your vaginal health is in tip top shape!
What To Do If Your pH Balance Is Thrown Off
So your pH balance is off and you’re experiencing uncomfortable symptoms. What should you do next? How do you help fix it and get your vaginal environment back to normal as soon as possible?
First things first: Go see your doctor, especially if this is a new experience for you. Certain vaginal infections may require antibiotics to get it under control and assure no lasting damage is being done to your vagina or your reproductive system. If you’re experiencing a recurring issue such as bacterial vaginosis (BV), looking into lifestyle changes may be needed, such as diet, exercise, feminine hygiene products and clothing materials.
Not everyone is comfortable with taking prescription medications and may want to stick to more of a holistic lifestyle. If this is the case, you can try natural remedies to help with infections like boric acid. Other great remedies to look into are a vaginal probiotic, pH balanced soap and pH balanced wipes.
How To Incorporate pH Balance Into Your Feminine Care Routine
A quality feminine care routine should consist of pH balanced products to support your natural vaginal environment. It’s important to find a routine that works well for you and does not contain harmful, toxic or unhealthy products that will cause or contribute to vaginal issues.
There's not a "one size fits all" perfect routine that will work for everyone. Every woman's body is vastly different in what it can tolerate! The goal is to find the perfect routine for YOU that you can trust works well for your body, keeps your Vee healthy and helps you to avoid all of the problems that come with experiencing pH imbalance.
It’s a common misconception that women only need to use feminine care products when they have an existing issue like a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. The truth is, a feminine care routine is meant to be a preventive measure AND an active remedy for vaginal issues, particularly pH imbalance. Having a quality feminine care routine is just as important as having a skin care routine, hair care routine or any other type of self-care routine you may have!
There are 3 staple pH balancing products that many women incorporate in their feminine care routine to maintain optimal vaginal hygiene.
- A pH balanced feminine wash
A quality pH-balanced wash is an important method of prevention to keep your outer vagina clean and balanced. This should be used each time you shower or bathe to wash away any impurities around your vulva.
- pH balanced feminine wipes
pH balanced vaginal wipes are another great method of prevention to help keep your vagina feeling fresh and clean. Whether you’re at home, at the gym, on a date, out with friends, or traveling, these are a convenient way to quickly freshen up, especially when taking an entire shower isn't necessary or accessible.
- Boric acid suppositories
Boric acid suppositories are a convenient, at-home remedy for maintaing a healthy vaginal pH balance.
We recommend taking special care in researching and reviewing the ingredients that all of your feminine products are formulated with. Not all feminine products are created equal, so not all products are safe or healthy for your vagina no matter how promising they may sound.
The best products to use are ones made with minimal, natural ingredients. Some of the biggest culprits of pH imbalance that you want to steer clear of are fragrances, dyes, sulfates and parabens.
Other Best Practices For Maintaining A Healthy pH Balance
So what are the best practices for pH balance that you can incorporate consistently into your daily life?
- A Healthy, Balanced Diet
Diet is one of the largest factors in our daily lives that can make or break our overall health and our vaginal health. Focus on eating whole, nutritious foods that nourish your body. A good rule of thumb is that if a food is beneficial for your overall health, it’s likely beneficial for your vagina too!
Exercise is another important factor that you can include in your daily life that will have a positive impact on your overall health and vaginal health. Whether you prefer walking, weight lifting, yoga, pilates, a particular sport, or something else, any form of exercise and movement that you are doing with your body is beneficial!
- Manage Stress
Managing your stress levels can greatly benefit your vaginal health. When we are stressed, hormone levels can shift which can eventually lead to pH imbalance. Try practicing relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, journaling, or exercising.
Stay hydrated! Water is your (and your Vee’s) friend! Drinking enough water helps to eliminate toxins and waste from the body. Dehydration can throw off your pH balance and also cause your vagina to feel dry.
- Quality Feminine Care
Good feminine hygiene is an obvious one. Having a solid feminine hygiene routine is just as important as any other routine you could possibly have!
-Wash your vagina daily with a pH balanced soap.
-Use pH balanced wipes when you need to freshen up (they’re also great for after sex cleanup).
-Practice safe sex with a condom and vagina-friendly lube that won’t throw off your pH balance.
- Vaginal Probiotics
Incorporate a vaginal probiotic into your daily routine. This will help to maintain the proper levels of bacteria in your vagina to prevent a bacterial imbalance from occurring.
- Test Your pH Levels
It’s not necessary to do every single day, but don’t forget to test your pH levels every once in a while. Testing your pH levels can help you to understand your vaginal health more than ever. By keeping track of what your normal pH levels look like, you will have an easier time distinguishing when something is actually off.
Your Feminine Health Matters
In order to maintain optimal overall health and feel your absolute best, being conscious of your feminine health and investing in a routine that you know works well is key. Every female should have a go-to feminine hygiene routine that they can trust wholeheartedly to help support their natural pH levels.
It may take some trial and error to figure out what works for you, but it's worth the journey to having a happy and healthy Vee. Investing in yourself means investing in the happiness and health of both you and your vee!
VeeFresh is here to do whatever we can to help you and your Vee stay fresh, clean and confident. We wish you all the best and lots of success on your feminine health and hygiene journey.