For many, the pleasures and aesthetics of the vagina are a top priority, and for good reason, but while the science of the organ is perhaps not as sexy, it shouldn’t be overlooked. The maintenance of a normal vaginal pH, for example, is hugely important.
Remember pH from science class?
pH measures the level of acidity or basicity in a substance. A healthy vagina is naturally acidic with a normal pH between 3.8 and 4.5. The vagina contains beneficial bacteria that helps fend off infections and maintain a normal pH level.
What’s beneficial bacteria?
Nina Helms, founder of Sexual Health Enthusiasts (S+HE), tells Teen Vogue, “lactobacilli and corynebacterium rule the vulvovaginal ecosystem. Their acid loving symbiotic relationship regulates and dominates by taking up full residence and crowding out unwanted guests.”
How does the vagina maintain a normal pH?
Well, the vaginas are self-cleaning, and part of this job is the maintenance of a delicate balance of bacteria through the secretion of small amounts of discharge. When your vagina is anything other than in that healthy 3.8 – 4.5 range, it could mean infection.
What can throw off your vaginal pH?
Tons of things, including:
- Douching and other controversial “cleaning” methods
- Menstruation blood
- Tampons that have been inside you for too long (see also: TSS)
- Antibiotics, which can destroy that beneficial bacteria (hence why people recommend taking probiotics)
- A high sugar intake, which can cause a candida infection
- Semen, sadly, is basic and can mess with your business too
What happens when your pH is off?
If your vaginal pH is outside the normal range, it may cause an uncomfortable itch, an unpleasant odor or abnormal discharge. These could signal one of three common infections: a yeast infection, trich, or bacterial vaginosis.
What can I do to help?
Firstly, ensure you are cleaning your vagina properly and avoiding harsh soaps, douching, and the like. If you sense something is off downstairs, you can get an at-home pH test at the drugstore or make an appointment with your doctor.
Photo courtesy of Teen Vogue