The female body is naturally equipped to send signals when something is not right, including when your vaginal pH levels become unbalanced.
This type of imbalance often results in vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis (BV) or sexually transmitted infections. However, an imbalance in the vaginal pH can be detected early if you know what to look for.
To help keep your feminine pH balanced, read on for more understanding about vaginal pH levels and 5 common signs that your feminine pH balance is off. We’ll also discuss some simple lifestyle changes you can make to rebalance your pH naturally, as well as two excellent natural supplements.
What Does Feminine pH Balance Mean?
Meaning “potential (p) of hydrogen(H)”, the pH scale is used to measure how acidic or alkaline something is. Measured on a scale from 1 to 14 with 7 being neutral, anything below 7 is considered acidic and measurements above 7 are considered alkaline.
When it comes to feminine pH balance, what experts are referring to is the mixture of fatty acids from your skin’s sweat glands with the amino acids from your perspiration and the lactic acid that is produced by good bacteria.
The blend of these three factors will determine your feminine pH level and indicate if the microflora of your vagina is healthy or unbalanced.
What Is a Healthy Vaginal pH Level?
A healthy vagina maintains a mildly acidic environment in order to reduce the risk of infection, meaning its pH level will typically measure between 3.8 and 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 14. If the vaginal pH is higher than 4.5 the vaginal environment becomes more alkaline and a possible breeding ground for unhealthy bacteria that cause infection.
However, the pH level of a healthy vagina can also change throughout a woman’s life.
Women of reproductive age, typically aged between 14 and 49, for instance, will generally fall within the pH range of 3.8 to 4.5 with levels rising slightly before menstruation. Engaging in sexual intercourse causes pH levels to temporarily increase to 7.0 and as high as 8.5 to accommodate sperm, which requires an alkaline environment to survive.
So while women of reproductive age with a highly acidic vaginal pH generally do not suffer from infections, they may find that they have fertility issues due to sperm not surviving long enough to reach the egg.
Furthermore, after going through menopause, some women’s vaginal pH levels are known to rise as high as 7.0, meaning post-menopausal women are still susceptible to vaginal infections like BV and trichomoniasis, which in turn increase the risk of more serious STIs like HIV or herpes.
Factors That Affect Vaginal pH Levels
Factors that can influence your vaginal pH levels fall into two categories. Internal factors relate to personal hygiene, age, and hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle as well as in women of menopausal age.
External factors that can affect your vaginal pH levels include douching, unprotected sex, clothing that is too tight, reactions to scented soaps, detergents, spermicides, or lubricants, as well as shaving or lady grooming.
How To Know If Your Vaginal pH is Off
The female body typically reacts with one or more of these 5 common signs when your feminine pH balance is off. If you can relate to any of the symptoms below, consider doing a home feminine pH test to check your pH levels and call your doctor for a check-up if your results are under 3.8 or over 4.5.
1. Vulvar Itching & Swelling
Although mild itching down there can sometimes be a sign of dry skin after shaving or waxing, persistent itching of the vulva that tends to result in redness and/or swelling is more than likely a sign of a bacterial, viral, or yeast infection in the vagina.
2. Unusual Vaginal Discharge
Besides the pinkish tinge that can occur after menstruation or with the onset of pregnancy, healthy vaginal discharge is almost always clear or white. If the white discharge becomes thick, lumpy, or develops a cottage cheese-like texture, it’s time to schedule a visit to your doctor. Yellow, green, or gray vaginal discharge is also abnormal and typically indicates a vaginal infection.
3. Unpleasant Vaginal Odor
All women’s vaginal areas smell different, but if you’re getting a whiff of an extremely aggressive odor like fish or rotting meat from your vagina, call your doctor about diagnosing and treating a possible infection.
4. Burning When Urinating
Feeling a burning sensation when urinating is usually a symptom of a problem somewhere in the urinary tract, with urinary tract infections (UTIs) being the most common.
Kidney stones, painful bladder syndrome, and prostatitis also cause a burning feeling when peeing, so it’s best to schedule an appointment with your doctor for a diagnosis. The good news is each of these conditions is treatable.
5. Burning Sensation During Sex
A burning feeling during sex could be due to irritation or vaginal dryness, especially in women going through perimenopause or menopause. However, in women of reproductive age, a burning sensation during sex is typically caused by a bacterial infection, a sexually transmitted infection, or vaginismus, all of which require medication as treatment.
How To Rebalance Your Feminine pH
There are several natural steps and lifestyle changes you can make to restore your vaginal pH balance. The following are tried and tested options:
Instead of douching, or using fragranced soap when washing your vagina – both of which have high pH levels - switch to a simpler routine of washing your intimate area with warm water and non-fragranced soap. Your vagina is a self-cleaning machine and there is no need to wash inside it.
Condoms not only protect you from sexually transmitted infections, they also protect the vaginal pH levels from the more alkaline nature of semen. However, flavored, pre-lubricated, and spermicide condoms should be avoided as they can cause vaginal irritation and upset the pH balance.
Wear Looser Underwear & Clothing
Tight underwear made from synthetic materials makes it difficult for air to circulate around the vagina, resulting in a humid environment where certain bacteria can thrive.
Tight jeans, workout leggings, or pants can have the same effect unless they come with a cotton crotch. To allow more air to circulate and reduce the risk of infection, switch to underwear made from cotton, avoid thongs, and wear looser pants or jeans.
It’s also advisable for women to change out of damp swimsuits or workout leggings as soon as they can to avoid any excess moisture down there.
Natural Supplements That Balance Vaginal pH
Several studies into probiotics have revealed that they considerably reduce the risk of vaginal infections. Found naturally in yogurt, kombucha, and miso, probiotics are also available in supplement form, like Flora Bloom Probiotics for Women from Intimate Rose.
This daily supplement not only improves gut health it also balances pH levels and prevents nasty vaginal infections from taking hold.
Another wonderful natural supplement for vaginal health is boric acid. Used as a natural remedy by ancient civilizations to treat vaginal infections for centuries, boric acid is now available in suppository form from Intimate Rose.
As well as soothing irritation, itching, and swelling, it rebalances the vaginal microflora after yeast infections and STIs. Research has also shown that a daily boric acid suppository used in conjunction with antibiotics can treat BV infections and prevent further infections from recurring.
It is important to note that Boric Acid should never be taken orally or by pregnant women.
Vaginal infections occur for several reasons and more often than not the female body sends signals to alert you of their presence. An imbalance in the feminine pH is a strong indicator that something is off and 5 common signs, in particular, can alert women that it’s time to see a doctor for treatment.
If you think you may have a vaginal infection, check above for the 5 most common signs that your vaginal balance is off and contact your doctor for a check-up if you can relate.
WebMD – Vaginal Infections - https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/sexual-health-vaginal-infections
National Library of Medicine - Vaginal pH Value for Clinical Diagnosis and Treatment of Common Vaginitis - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8618584/
Centers For Disease Control & Prevention - Bacterial Vaginosis - https://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stdfact-bacterial-vaginosis.htm
Mayo Clinic – Yeast Infection - https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/yeast-infection/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20379004
My Cleveland Clinic – Boric Acid Vaginal Suppositories - https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/19641-boric-acid-vaginal-suppository
National Library of Medicine - The Role of Probiotics in Vaginal Health - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9366906/