If you’ve been noticing some mysterious odors coming from your vaginal area and can’t seem to determine the cause, a vaginal pH imbalance might be the culprit. To help you better understand vaginal pH, let’s start by breaking things down: your vaginal pH refers to the acidity of the vagina and can be affected by common factors like unprotected sex, pregnancy, your menstrual period, improper vaginal care, and menopause.
Experiencing a vaginal pH imbalance is common, but not discussed all that much. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about vaginal pH levels gone awry.
Healthy or Not? Understanding Vaginal pH Levels
Most of the time, a healthy vaginal pH falls somewhere between 3.8 and 4.5. Slight variations are normal, but when the pH falls above or below that range, this signals that the balance between good and bad bacteria in your vagina may be out of whack. Typically, when your pH balance is off, you’ll have elevated levels of bad bacteria and yeast in the body. When this happens, you might experience irritation, odors, and even conditions like bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection.
If you notice any of the following symptoms, it’s a good idea to get in touch with your doctor. Your vaginal pH levels might be off if you’re experiencing any of the following:
- An abnormal burning sensation during sex or other forms of vaginal irritation.
- Unpleasant and strong smells.
- Sensations and discomfort that are out of the ordinary.
- Grayish, green, or white discharge. Or if you’re experiencing different amount of discharge than usual.
Testing and Treatment
Some pharmacies sell at-home tests you can use to test your vaginal pH levels, but remember that if you suspect something is off, the best thing you can do is see a doctor. The specific treatment for your vaginal pH imbalance will vary depending on how the imbalance manifests. For both hormonal imbalances and yeast overgrowth your doctor may treat you with an oral medication or a cream that gets applied to the skin.
You can take active steps to maintain a healthy vaginal pH. For example, you’ll want to stay away from vaginal douching and the use of heavily scented soaps. These have potential to increase bacteria to unhealthy levels and are generally a bad idea and unnecessary. Other helpful practices for maintaining optimal pH levels include eating yogurt and taking probiotics regularly, using a condom during sex, and seeing your women’s health care provider yearly and whenever something seems off.
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Women’s Health Arizona. As Arizona’s largest ObGyn group, we’re trained and solely dedicated to delivering the best ObGyn experience in convenient and comfortable settings around Phoenix.