What You Should Know About Vaginal pH

Dr. Alyssa Dweck

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, specifically when it comes to intimate, feminine health. In this article we’ll talk more about what vaginal pH is, what can happen when vaginal pH balance is off as well as discuss a few ways to potentially fix vaginal pH levels if they are out of whack.

What Is Vaginal pH? 

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. So, what’s considered to be normal when it comes to vaginal pH? 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 play a role in vaginal pH imbalance. Pregnancy, lactation, hormonal contraception, and perimenopause and menopause are notable causes of altered estrogen levels. Estrogen helps to maintain a normal vaginal pH, therefore, if estrogen levels are lower, vaginal pH can be off. As our vaginal pH rises, 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, however. Revaree®, a hormone-free treatment option that uses hyaluronic acid for vaginal dryness, 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.These results were similar to those seen with vaginal estriol and conjugated vaginal estrogen in women.2

Risks Associated with Vaginal pH Imbalance

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 considered to be a traditional sexually transmitted infection passed back and forth between partners, but rather an imbalance of the usual vaginal flora, which contributes to a vaginal pH imbalance. 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, along with frequent antibiotic courses, and steroid use, might increase your risk of throwing off your vaginal pH, in addition to creating an environment more susceptible to vaginal yeast infections. Diets high in sugar and alcohol can fuel yeast infections for those who are prone.

How to Fix Your Vaginal pH

Check in with your healthcare provider if chronic or recurrent yeast or BV and odor, are issues – this 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 a vaginal pH imbalance. If you are sensitive, a hypoallergenic regimen, free of these potentially caustic ingredients, might do the trick to help you better manage and maintain a healthy, balanced vaginal pH.

Remember a normal vaginal pH means a healthy vagina!

Resources

  1. Chen J, et al. J Sex Med. 2013;10:1575-1584
  2. Jokar A, et al. IJCBNM. 2016;4:69-78
  3. Russo R, Edu A, De Seta F. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2018; 298(1):139-145

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* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.