The vagina is an extremely sensitive part of a woman’s body. Small changes to your environment, the products you use or your hormones can all alter the bacteria present inside it and this can change the texture or smell of discharge that it produces. These changes can also affect the pH of the vagina, and therefore how acidic or alkaline it is.
Is the vagina acidic or alkaline?
The vagina’s pH should be between 3.5 and 4.5, meaning it has the same level of acidity as orange juice. The pH scale is used to determine how acidic or alkaline a substance is. Zero is the most acidic a substance can be and 14 is the most alkaline. To give you an idea of some substances that are acid or alkaline, battery acid has a pH of 0 and oven cleaner has a pH of 14.
It’s worth noting that a ‘normal’ vaginal pH will differ for every woman, depending on your age, where you’re at in the menstrual cycle and if you’re going through the menopause. Your pH can also alter significantly before or after sex.
But why does the pH level of a vagina matter? An acidic environment can protect the vagina better than an alkaline one. It creates a barrier that prevents some bacteria and yeast from multiplying too quickly, which can form Thrush or Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). A vagina that has a pH above 4.5 is the perfect environment for these organisms to grow and thrive, meaning you could be more vulnerable to vaginal infections.
Despite the vagina being more acidic, sperm thrive in an alkaline environment. If your vagina is too acidic, it could kill the sperm or prevent them from getting to the egg, which could be a problem if you’re trying to conceive. However, during sex, the pH of the vagina rises so that it’s more alkaline. This gives the sperm a chance to reach the egg successfully. This may be why some women complain of itching and irritation after sexual intercourse.
Other things that can alter your vagina’s pH include douching and menstrual periods. Antibiotics can also alter the pH as they kill both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in your vagina, which can throw the whole area out of balance.
But how do you know if you have an unbalanced vagina? You may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
● A fishy odour
● White, gray or green discharge
● Burning when you go for a wee
How to make the vagina acidic
In order to restore the pH of your vagina to a more normal level, you first need to discover why your vagina has an increased alkaline pH.
You might have Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). This bacterial infection is common in women of reproductive age, affecting one in three women at least once in their lifetime. BV can be caused by using overly scented tampons or sanitary pads, using body washes or soaps with strong chemicals in the vaginal area or by regularly changing sexual partners. BV isn’t considered to be a sexually transmitted infection (STI), however it can be passed from woman to woman during sex. Symptoms of this infection include a strong, fishy smelling discharge with a thin, watery texture.
There’s also a small chance that you could have Trichomoniasis. Unlike BV, this is an STI that is caused by a parasite. Some people don’t experience any symptoms with this infection, however you may notice pain when you have sex or urinate and cloudy discharge that’s yellow in colour.
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, then speak to a doctor about your treatment options. Alternatively, if you think you have BV, you could try using a BV Gel at home before consulting a doctor. You should aim to have these infections treated before taking another pH test to see if the pH has restored to a normal level.
If you don’t have an infection but you believe that your vagina might be overly alkaline, you could try taking probiotics to increase the good bacteria and allow the vagina to restore itself. You may even try a feminine hygiene wash. This wash can be applied directly to your vulva when you’re in the shower. It contains all the prebiotics that the area needs.
Your diet can have a big impact on your vaginal health. Just like eating certain foods can make your skin look healthier or your nails grow faster, there are particular foods that may affect your vagina. To increase your vagina’s natural bacteria levels and restore its acidity, you could eat food that contains numerous probiotics on a regular basis, including natural yoghurt, sourdough bread, salami, pickles and kimchi (a Korean delicacy that’s made from salted and fermented vegetables). These probiotic-rich foods could be helpful if you frequently contract vaginal infections as they contain the same ‘good’ bacteria as the vagina, Lactobacilli.
To prevent your vagina’s pH from increasing during sex, your partner could use a condom. This can protect you from contracting an STI, such as Trichomoniasis, and can also stop sperm from raising the vagina’s pH to an alkaline level.