The normal pH of the vagina is 4.5 or less, which is on the low, or acidic, side of the pH spectrum. This low pH helps to maintain a healthy balance of the yeast and bacteria that normally live in the vagina. If vaginal pH is raised, the normal balance of organisms can be upset, resulting in an inflammation known as vaginitis. Symptoms of a high vaginal pH causing vaginitis include irritation, unusual discharge or odor. A physician can test for vaginal pH using a pH test strip, or you can use a home vaginal pH test. Following certain hygiene and sexual practice guidelines can help to maintain a healthy vaginal pH.
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Clean the vulva with plain, warm water. If you use soap, choose a mild soap, like perfume-free glycerin soap.
Change tampons and sanitary napkins frequently during menstruation. The pH of blood is 7.4, which is much higher than the pH of the vagina. Exposing the vagina to prolonged use of tampons and pads can lead to vaginitis.
Use a condom during sexual intercourse. With a pH of 7.1 to 8, semen is much more alkaline, or basic, than the vagina. Because of this, semen can alter the normal vaginal pH.
Refrain from douching. This can disrupt the normal vaginal pH and lead to vaginitis.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Vaginitis
- obgyn.net: Vaginal pH Level and Its Role in Women's Health & Safety
- Mayo Clinic: Bacterial Vaginosis
- Merck Manuals Online Medical Library: Vaginitis
- The Medical News: Common Triggers Can Elevate pH and Make Women More Susceptible to Vaginal Infection
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Vaginal pH
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Lactobacillus Acidophilus