Vaginal pH Balance

In a healthy female body, the vaginal pH levels are slightly towards the acidic side, somewhere between 3.8 and 4.5.

This is natural and for the protection of the region down there. This pH is maintained by a constant supply of vaginal secretions, and certain beneficial bacteria that stay there and help in maintaining this pH.

A slightly acidic pH is essential and guards the vagina against infections. It does not let harmful bacteria and fungi grow there.

Most harmful bacteria, Trichomoniasis and yeast infections, need a near neutral pH of 7 to grow abundantly.

Apart from maintaining the pH, vaginal secretions also serve to lubricate the canal and cleanse it on a regular basis.

Symptoms of pH Imbalance

An imbalance in the vaginal pH makes the area unhealthy. It becomes prone to infections.

You may get symptoms like:

  • Itching and irritation over the labia or opening of the vagina
  • Redness or soreness
  • Rashes over labia or near the opening
  • Sometimes, the area may appear swelled
  • Burning while urinating or during sex
  • Excess discharges from the vagina

Causes of Disturbed Vaginal pH

  • Improper hygiene of the area.
  • Douching or washing the vaginal canal with harsh soaps, as this washes off protective vaginal secretions and essential friendly bacteria.
  • Tight clothing habit
  • Disturbed diet or sleep
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Long courses of antibiotics, taken for some other ailment, may kill friendly bacteria down there, altering vaginal pH.
  • Temporarily, after menstrual flow
  • Hormonal problems, that reduce or alter vaginal secretions
  • Around and after menopause
  • Atrophy of cells in the canal due to age or certain treatments, as that of cancer.
  • Too much of caffeine or aerated drinks. These are alkaline in nature.
  • Certain medications like anti-histamines

How to Restore Vaginal pH in a Natural Way?

This requires nothing more than a healthy lifestyle and basic principles of hygiene.

  • Keep the area clean and dry. A regular bathing schedule, including cleaning of the area with plain water, is enough. After bathing, dab the area with a dry towel.
  • Douching is actually harmful. It kills and washes away the beneficial bacteria that stay in the vaginal region. This disturbs the vaginal pH and the area becomes prone to dryness and infections.
  • Similarly, avoid the use of harsh soaps on the area.
  • Wear loose cotton based undergarments most of the time, particularly at night times. They allow the area to breathe while you sleep.
  • One should prevent moisture getting trapped in the vaginal area. Moistness predisposes to fungal infections.
  • Avoid excess of tea, coffee and other carbonated drinks that directly influence the vaginal pH. Most aerated drinks shift the pH towards alkaline side, hence making you prone to infections.
  • Too much of junk food is bad. Processed food contains lots of salts, preservatives, that affects the flora of the region and hence the health.
  • Eat healthy. Actually, it is our diet that is the key point in having a healthy body, including a healthy vagina. Consume plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Drink plenty of water.
  • Fresh fruit juices and yogurt are the best to restore back the vaginal pH. Have them on a regular basis to keep the area healthy.
  • Cleaning manners in the area are important. Always wipe off from front to back, never the other way, after you defecate. This is to avoid direct contamination of the vagina by fecal bacteria.
  • Change your sanitary napkins frequently. Practice safe sex always. Change condoms when required.
  • Avoid taking hormonal pills, unless prescribed.

If you observe any itching, burning or discharge from your vagina, you may use vaginal pH test strips to check if the pH has been disturbed.

How to Test Vaginal pH

Vaginal pH test kits are available. You can check the pH simply by putting them in your vaginal canal (not deep into it, just superficially) and noting down the change in color of the test strip.

This can be done at home.

The cause of high or low vaginal pH needs to be investigated and treated.

Treatment at Home

As recommended above, a change in eating habits and lifestyle can help you a great deal. Shift to a healthy eating schedule, avoid excess of caffeine, junk food and aerated drinks.

Eating home made curd or yogurt, twice a day, can dramatically help in restoring back vaginal pH.

For immediate relief, apple cidar vinegar douche may be tried. However, this may work only when you’re sure that the pH is towards alkaline side, and you need to make it a bit acidic. So, prerequisites include knowing your pH. This can be done by using pH testing kits.

Also, ensure that there are no cuts, abrasions or rashes down there. If you have any of these, better to see a doctor before trying anything at home.

Apple Cidar Vinegar Douche

This would immediately make the vaginal pH a bit acidic and help alleviating symptoms. You need a douching kit for this.

Apple cidar vinegar is diluted in water and douched inside. Dilution is very important, as this vinegar is very acidic and if not diluted well, it may burn your tissues inside.

You may mix one table spoon of ACV in one liter of water. First pour it superficially over the affected area. If it doesn’t burn, you may try it internally.

Medical Advice (Q&As) on “How to Balance Vaginal pH?

  1. Olivia

    Im trying to abate dry itchy and sore vagina after swimming in our swimming pool. Given that the proper ph balance is higher in pools than in a vagina and given that higher chlorine can kill necessary bacteria needed in the vagina, would keeping the pool slightly outside the recommended parameters be better for the vaginas in our pool? Slightly less chlorine and lower ph level to better match the body chemistry of the female body is my goal.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      This needs to be discussed with the health people there. Lowering chlorine would mean that there are bacteria and other germs in the pool, ready to invade your bodies.

      Reply
  2. Leila

    Hi I noticed you mentioned stopping hormonal pills. How will this work if one must be on birth control. I have some slight hirsutism so i take birth control pills and spironolactone to keep the hair on try to keep the hair on my chin away I tested my vagina and at the time it was a 6 on the pH scale. I don’t have a fowl odor all the time but some days it smells like a strong vagina scent and is noticeable to my partner who i use condoms with. I just want to go back to the point where i wasn’t so self conscious about my scent.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      What is the color of the discharge? Is itching too much or just a little? Examine down there and let us know if the area down there is red or swollen??

      Reply
  3. ZZ

    Hi. I had unprotected sex with my boyfriend in May, after which I took an ECP. Afterwards I realised I had a yeast infection, worst ever that I have had. Usually I can pinpoint what exactly caused them, but this time I wasn’t sure if I caught it from my partner (monogamous) or if it was a reaction to the Postinor-2 pill.
    In June, I started taking OTC contraceptive Yasmin, which had a whole host of side effects. The most menacing of which was a strong and unpleasant vaginal odour. However, I started Yasmin so I could continue having unprotected sex with my partner so I’m aware this may also have an effect on what develops down there. The odour did not come with any itching or signs of visual inflammation. Nearing the end of the pill pack, my vaginal discharge became very excessive and was slightly yellow in colour. It didn’t have a distinctive scent of its own but I did still have a strong, unpleasant vaginal odour.

    I discontinued use of the pill after completion and have since seen my period, which lasted 7 days as usual. The odour has not subsided however. My discharge seems irregular in its consistency as well.
    I should also note that my partner almost always ejaculates inside me. I read that semen changes the environment of the vagina and could cause pH imbalance etc. I have not had sex for going two weeks now, and the odour still persists.
    I generally bathe twice a day and bathe each time after sex. I do not douche. I am vegan. I drink a lot water. I get adequate sleep. I wear cotton underwear and loosely fitting clothing. Not very active at the moment, so not sweating a lot.

    I am also not in my home country at the moment and would be financially unable to see a doctor.
    Any advice?

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      The odor is likely to be due to the pill. It would go away in due course of time.

      As you have no itching, pain or any other problem down there, no treatment is required.

      Avoid using soaps or gels there.

      Reply
    2. Silvia

      I suggest to start a daily regiment in drinking Braggs apple cider vinegar (2tsp), organic lemon juice (2tsp) with 8 ounces of water. You can drink it cold or hot.

      Reply
  4. Marie

    I have thinning skin in the vulva area causing splits in the skin. I also have itching & redness that looks like prickly heat. This was the result of a severe yeast infection 3 years ago from an antibiotic. No smell no discharge all outside the vagina. I treat with triamcinolone acetonide. It keeps it at Bay but only daily. The condition has ruined sex. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Triamcinolone acetonide would further thin out skin there. These steroid creams are not to be used for long periods.

      Reply
  5. Lea

    I have itching at slight discomfort in the vaginal area and believe I have an unbalanced Ph. I’ve stopped using douches within the last few days. What would you recommend to get rid of the itching without seeing a doctor?

    Reply
  6. Wanda

    I am a 51 year old menopausal woman after taking a shower and getting dressed my underwear becomes wet as though I have been working out which cause urine odor that I can smell through my clothes I have also noticed my under arm my breath and feet has an odor as well this has been going on for 2 years or more not clear what is causing this I have never in the past have odor issues please help

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Sweat is also an excretory waste. Having a urine odor in it may mean that it is concentrated.

      May be you need to drink more water throughout the day.

      Or else, your urine may be carrying more of protein waste. A urine analysis can be done to ascertain this.

      Reply
  7. J M

    After sex my husband breaks out in a painful rash on his inner thighs. I have no itching or discharge. Have a healthy diet. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Sex stimulates glands down there to secrete more of secretions. Our own secretions may irritate our skin.

      These rashes may be due to excess secretions. Ask him to bathe or wash that particular area liberally with water after sex.

      Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      If it’s not itching or paining there, likely to be your normal vaginal secretions.

      If you see blood there, you need to be examined.

      Reply
  8. Lindale

    I went to the dr. for a yeast infection was prescribed a fluconazole and told to take probiotics. A week later I still have itching and now a brown discharge with odor. What could this be?

    Reply
  9. Sarah

    I seem to keep getting BV when I have sex with my boyfriend. I have never had it with any previous partner but every time we have sex, the rotten smell comes back. It’s like a circle – we have sex, I get BV, I buy treatment and it goes away until we do it again and then I have to buy more treatment – which lasts a week. It’s upsetting me now as I hate turning my boyfriend down and I feel like I’m pushing him away. I read it’s probably down to his semen being too alkaline for me so is there something I can do to change this? We wanted to try for a baby but I can’t have sex without getting BV again

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      May be, he needs to be screened for the presence of any infection.

      It would be difficult to alter the pH of natural secretions. This may also interfere with conception.

      Reply
  10. Rashi

    I had glandular fever last year and since then I have had itching burning and swelling. The swelling is completely gone but burning has increased to the point that intercourse is painful and I often find myself avoiding it. The burning sensation is on and off throughout the day. Even touching the area leaves an uncomfortable burning (mild) sensation . I dont have any discharge nor any foul smell down there. I dont wear underwear or tight pants as it gets very uncomfortable and very slightly painful. I had my kidney function tests done and they came back negative except for prolactin (dont ask me why prolactin was a part of my kidney function testts!!!) which was very very high (1100). I have been tested repeatedly for BV and yeast and they all came back negative. I really dont know what to do. I have been prescribed cabergoline and im only on week 2 but it has done nothing. I have my estrogen, FSH and LH tests next week to see if they are normal. Its likely they are not given the high prolactin level but not sure as of yet,

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      This may be a hormonal issue. You may need to apply an estrogen cream down there. Talk to your doctor about this.

      Reply
  11. Missy

    After unprotect oral and vaginal sex with my ex. I notice irritation, burning, swelling and itching right after. Like my Ph balance was thrown off right away. Its happened before, I get tested for STD’s and I’m negative for all STD’S . My doctor prescribed me yeast infection medication Diflucan. It goes away days later? What could be happening

    Reply
  12. Ontina

    Ive been taking oral contraceptives for 5 months and in the third month i had some breakthrough bleeding and my doctor said it was from a climatic change and from stress after that i noticed that my vulva is red and sore and has some cuts,it generally feels more dry down there.i put some moisturizer on my vulva and after some days it went away.i was tested for BV and yeast but the tests came out fine.on the fourth month again i had some breakthrough bleeding again but not as bad as the last time and my doctor said to keep taking the same pill and it went away faster than the last time.but again i had that rash and dryness down there,again i put some moisturizer and some days later it went away.now im on the fifth month,i do not have any breakthrough bleeding yet but the soreness of my vulva and dryness came back,i treat it the same way as before,and my doctor says that its from the pill and she says that its going to go away but i wonder if its some kind of ph imbalance due to the pill and what can i do about it.should i change the pill?or can i treat it any other way? Also i have to mention that sexual activities are a kind of painful because of the dryness.

    Reply
  13. miss sunshine

    Hi, I have a persistent vaginal odor, they said my PH was alkaline. I’ve been tested at my GP and also at various GUM clinics, and all results were clear, but still the smell is there.

    Reply
  14. Olunna

    I have been having this excessive white discharge, no odor or redness. Over a year now. Went for test and result said “both culture yielded no growth after 24hrs of incubation @37?
    Epithelial Cell:++
    Pus cell: 1-2
    R B C: 3-5

    Did homonial examination, see result below;
    Progesterone: 0.2
    Luiteinizing hormone: 7.0
    Follicule stimulating hormone: 5.3
    Prolactin: 13.5

    Note that I have been trying for a baby.

    Did HSG n it came out that my tubes and cervix scan are OK.
    Yet I couldn’t conceive.

    Moreover my partner also did sperm analysis,
    Motility : active is 70%
    Morphology : abnormal forms is 5%
    Viability : 80%
    Pushing cell: 3-4
    Epithelial cell: +cells/hpf
    Cell count: 21,000,000

    Please what could be the cause? Could it be that my vagina is too acidic for sperm to survive in it or what?
    Kindly advice. I need to carry my babies

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Any lower abdomen pain, fluid seen in pouch of douglas (on ultrasound)? Were you on any kind of contraception before this? If yes, for how long?

      You may test the pH of your vaginal fluid.

      Reply
      1. Olunna

        Thanks for your response .

        I have no abdominal pains, my Dr. confirmed d ultrasound OK. Yes, I took postinor pill Febuary 2016

        Reply
  15. Kristinna

    Hello,
    So I believe that my PH is off because before I had a yeast infection and I keep getting them. As well I have itching and redness a lot. I just want to cure it. If you can give me any ideas on what to take to cure it. That would be great.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Any discharge from the vagina? Check your underwear for this.

      It’s better to check your vaginal pH first. Before using any product to alter pH, lets first ascertain whether this is a pH issue or not. pH strips are available in the market. You may buy one and test. Let us know the results.

      Reply
  16. Tifani

    I had sex with my husband and I have had itching and burning since then. (1 week) I do not have an odor and have noticed a white discharge when I urinate. In the past I have used a topical antifungal for external itching or even aloe to relieve the symptoms, but neither of these has helped this time.

    Reply
  17. Molly

    I have had swelling in that region for two days. The less I walk the less irritated it is. It’s is a little sore do to the swelling.
    I do not have any other symptoms. I did have sex about 72 hours before the swelling started. I also used a fragrant body wash that I don’t normally use, and might of over washed that area.
    What would you suggest to help with the swelling?

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Could be an allergic reaction to some beauty product, lubricant jelly or condom used. You may try applying cold ice packs there, twice daily for 5 to 7 minutes. The swelling is likely to reduce with time.

      However, if you notice any discharge or foul smell from the vagina, this could be an infection.

      Reply

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