Vaginal Health: What Causes pH Imbalance?

Your vagina is an organ in your body that contains yeasts and bacteria that help to keep it healthy. The bacteria that thrive in your vagina allow it to have an acidic environment, which discourages infections. Sometimes, certain events can alter the functioning of your vaginal system and throw it off balance.

Dedicated to serving women’s gynecological and obstetrical needs in and around New York’s Westchester County, Daniel Kushner, MD, considers patient education a priority. In this blog, we explain pH balance in terms of your vaginal health.

What is pH?

The pH is a measure of the acidic or basic (alkaline) nature of a substance. The pH scale ranges between zero and 14, with zero being very acidic and 14 being very basic. Typically, a healthy vagina has a pH of 4.5, which is fairly acidic.

Certain bacteria in your vagina keep the environment acidic, and this prevents yeasts and other bacteria from taking over, causing infections, such as a yeast infection. However, sometimes the pH of your vagina changes, resulting in conditions that permit infections. 

What causes a vaginal pH imbalance?

A number of things can cause a vaginal pH imbalance, leading to growth of bacteria and yeasts that are not healthy.  

Antibiotics

Antibiotics are medicines that stop infections by killing bacteria in your body, including the good bacteria that’s present in your vagina. Your vaginal bacteria help keep your pH at the correct level, and killing them can cause an imbalance.

Semen

Using a condom during sex is a good habit because it prevents pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted diseases. Semen is alkaline (basic) and can also alter the pH of your vagina, so using this barrier method during intercourse can prevent an imbalance.

Douching

Douching entails rinsing out the inside of your vagina using water, or sometimes mixtures of vinegar, baking soda, or iodine. Although 1 in 5 women report that they douche regularly, doctors recommend that you don’t douche because it can change the pH and flora of your vagina, leading to other problems.

Menstruation

Menstrual blood has a pH of 7.4, and being in contact with blood raises the pH level of your vagina during menstruation. If menstrual blood sits against the vagina in a pad or tampon for an extended period, your vagina becomes less acidic, so it’s important to change pads and tampons frequently.

Why is a vaginal pH imbalance a problem?

Using a simple test, Dr. Kushner can check the pH of your vagina to determine if it’s at the correct acidity for optimal health. 

A colony of good bacteria and yeasts that live in your vagina help to keep it healthy and functioning normally. The bacteria create an acidic environment that discourages the growth of yeasts and other bacteria that can cause infections. 

When the pH of your vagina increases, yeasts and bacteria can colonize your vagina, leading to bad odors, pain, itching, burning, or discharge caused by:

If you have any vaginal discomfort or unusual symptoms, it's best to get checked out by a doctor who can provide you with a diagnosis and treatment to relieve your discomfort and rule out more serious conditions. 

Your vagina hosts delicate colonies of bacteria and yeasts that keep it healthy by maintaining a low pH level to impede infections from developing. When that pH level is altered by douching, contact with semen, or menstruation, conditions can develop that may lead to pain, discharge, and bad odors. 

For answers to your questions and support for your vaginal health, call the office nearest you to set up an appointment, or use our online booking system.

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