You know the drill. It’s the week before you’re supposed to get your period (for me it happens about three days prior), and suddenly your vagina is screaming “red alert,” itching like crazy! What gives?
It comes down to vaginal pH levels. A healthy pH level for the vagina is about 3.5-4.5 – slightly acidic. Right before your period, your pH plummets. This is because your estrogen levels have gone up, which has caused an increase in sugar in the vaginal tissue, which has made your vagina even more acidic. And as it turns out, yeast looooves acid. So you might have a slight (or not-so-slight!) yeast infection.
And if you’re itchy during your period? Again, it’s about pH levels. The pH of blood is 7.34 to 7.45, much higher than the pH of a healthy vagina. So the presence of blood can make your vagina not acidic enough, or too alkaline, which can lead to Bacterial Vaginosis. Ditto heterosexual intercourse; the average pH of semen is 7.2 to 7.8. And if you treat BV with antibiotics, that can lead right back to yeast infection, which is just so much fun!
So what can you do about it? Well, you want to keep a good balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in your vagina; too little “good” bacteria and you get yeast infections, too much “bad” bacteria and you get BV. Probiotics are your friend, whether in pill form, via vaginal suppositories, or through your diet. Full-fat Greek yogurt and probiotic-rich veggie powder are my weapons of choice (and they help with digestion, too!).
You also, paradoxically, might NOT want to wash downstairs in the shower. Soaps have a pH of 9-10, and water has a pH of 7, so again, it throws off your pH balance. Your vagina is like a self-cleaning oven; let it do its thing! If you really don’t feel comfortable skipping the washing altogether, at least make sure you’re using a non-scented soap.
Revel in full-coverage cotton underwear that’s not too tight. Your honey badger needs to breathe; synthetic fabrics and thongs seal in all your moisture, and yeast is a big fan of moisture.
Lastly, take care of yourself. The stronger your immune system is, the easier it’ll be to fight off infections.