Everything You Need to Know About Vaginal pH
By: Dr. Alyssa Dweck
There is so much hype about pH these days, and for good reason when it comes to intimate health.
What is vaginal pH and why is it so important?
The vagina is a unique organ that we gynecologists have often referred to as “self-cleaning”. In general, the vagina has a complex microbiome, an environment of carefully balanced and harmonious bacteria and yeast. One predominant organism that keeps all this in check is lactobacilli. These “good bacteria” come in many strains, all of which play a role in keeping the vaginal pH acidic; 3.7-4.5 to be exact. An acidic vaginal pH means a happy vagina free of annoying symptoms and potential infection.
The vaginal microbiome can be disrupted!
Hormone changes can disrupt the pH. Pregnancy, lactation, hormonal contraception as well as peri-menopause and menopause, are notable causes of altered estrogen levels. Estrogen helps to maintain a normal pH. If estrogen is lower, vaginal pH rises and symptoms of dryness, irritation, itching, painful sex and general day to day vaginal discomfort, can occur. Not everyone is able to or willing to use estrogen replacement in these instances. Revaree® is a hyaluronic acid based, easy-to-use vaginal insert, which when used regularly every 2-3 days, can help to maintain vaginal moisture and minimize these symptoms. In fact, the main ingredient in Revaree, hyaluronic acid, has been shown in clinical studies to play a role in repair of the vaginal tissue and maintaining pH.1 These results were similar to the results seen with vaginal estriol and conjugated vaginal estrogen in women. 2
Sex and exposure to ejaculate, particularly from multiple partners, can alter vaginal pH and increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV isn’t a traditional sexually transmitted infection passed back and forth between partners, but rather an imbalance of the usual vaginal flora, which can lead to discharge, a fishy odor and discomfort. BV is typically treated with an antibiotic, but prevention is key. Condoms may help prevent BV.
Medical issues left uncontrolled such as diabetes, frequent antibiotic courses, and steroid use, might increase your risk of a vaginal yeast infection. Diets high in sugar and alcohol can fuel yeast infections for those who are prone. Check in with your health care provider if chronic or recurrent yeast is an issue. It could be related to a pH imbalance. Consider taking a daily oral probiotic with at least 10 billion CFU of the most important strains of lactobacilli aimed at supporting gut and vaginal health.
Finally, be mindful of lifestyle habits we often take for granted. Highly fragrant and heavy chemically laden soaps, detergents, feminine wipes, menstrual products and personal lubricants are often the culprit when it comes to disturbances in vaginal health. If you are sensitive, a hypoallergenic regimen, free of these potentially caustic ingredients, might do the trick to manage and maintain a healthy pH “down there.”
Remember a normal pH means a healthy vagina.
Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, FACOG, Bonafide Medical Advisor, is a practicing gynecologist in Westchester County, New York. She provides care to women of all ages and has delivered thousands of babies. A graduate of Barnard College, she has a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition from Columbia University and her Medical Degree from Hahnemann University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, now named Drexel University. Dr. Dweck currently practices in Mount Kisco, NY and Carmel, NY and admits to Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, NY. She has been voted “Top Doctor” in New York Magazine and in Westchester County and has co-authored three books to date: “The Complete A to Z for your V,” “The Sexual Spark,” and “V is for Vagina.”
¹ Chen J, et al. J Sex Med. 2013;10:1575-1584
2 Jokar A, et al. IJCBNM. 2016;4:69-78.