Written by Dr. Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, FACOG, Chief Medical Officer
There is so much hype about vaginal 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 unique; we gynecologists often refer to it 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. A normal vaginal pH should be between 3.7-4.5. An acidic vaginal pH means a happy vagina free of annoying symptoms and potential infection.
What Causes Vaginal pH to Be Off?
Hormone changes can disrupt the vaginal pH balance. Pregnancy, lactation, hormonal contraception, and perimenopause and menopause are notable causes of altered estrogen levels. Estrogen helps to maintain a normal vaginal pH. If estrogen is lower, 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®, a hyaluronic acid-based vaginal insert, can help maintain vaginal moisture and minimize these symptoms when used regularly. In fact, the hyaluronic acid in Revaree, has been shown in clinical studies to play a role in repairing vaginal tissue and maintaining vaginal pH.1 These results were similar to those seen with vaginal estriol and conjugated vaginal estrogen in women.2
Vaginal pH Imbalance Can Increase the Risk of Vaginal Infections
Sex and exposure to ejaculate, particularly from multiple partners, can alter vaginal pH as well, 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. This imbalance 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.
How to Balance Vaginal pH
Check in with your healthcare provider if chronic or recurrent yeast is an issue. It could be related to a vaginal pH imbalance. Consider taking a daily oral probiotic with at least 5 billion CFU of the most important strains of lactobacilli aimed at supporting 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 vaginal pH.
Remember a normal vaginal pH means a healthy vagina.
- Chen J, et al. J Sex Med. 2013;10:1575-1584
- Jokar A, et al. IJCBNM. 2016;4:69-78.