Why vaginal pH and the vaginal microbiome matter
While the gut microbiome often enjoys the spotlight in the media, the vaginal microbiome (sometimes called vaginal flora) works diligently behind the scenes. When the healthy balance of the vaginal world is disrupted, it can have serious implications for our intimate health and sexual wellbeing.
The vaginal microbiome is made up of a complex network of microorganisms and acts as a shield against infections. Its job is to maintain the overall health of the vagina and it will fluctuate throughout your menstrual cycle and throughout life.
Good Bacteria: Understanding the role of lactobacilli
Lactobacilli are the ‘good’ bacteria found in the vagina that help to maintain a healthy vaginal environment. They are responsible for producing lactic acid and other antimicrobial compounds and they play a significant role in balancing vaginal pH. Lactobacilli help to deter the growth of harmful microorganisms and protect against sexually transmitted infections like Chlamydia, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and Gardnerella vaginalis. By producing lactic acid, lactobacilli help to maintain the slightly acidic vaginal environment, explained later on.
Many things can impact the presence and abundance of Lactobacilli in the vagina.
These factors include:
- Vaginal dryness
- Antibiotic usage
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Sexual activity
- Hygiene practices (like douching or using harsh soaps)
- Underlying medical conditions
Vaginal pH explained
The pH scale measures the acidity or alkalinity of water-based environments. The scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral, below 7 is acidic, and above 7 is alkaline. This measurement is more than just a number; it governs numerous bodily functions. Vaginal pH, usually around pH4, maintains an acidic environment that fends off infections like Bacterial Vaginosis, thrush outbreaks, and UTIs. A vaginal pH level above 5 can leave us vulnerable to infections.
Understanding the importance and function of vaginal pH can help us to maintain our intimate health and make informed choices about what we put into or around our vagina.
What can affect vaginal pH?
The vagina’s natural acidity helps to keep infections at bay and keep our vaginas happy. This delicate balance can be disrupted by certain lifestyle choices and medical conditions. Hygiene practices like douching or using harsh soaps in the vaginal area can disrupt healthy pH levels. Infections, antibiotic usage, aging, vaginal hydration levels, diet and sexual activity can also lead to changes in vaginal pH . Unprotected sex can lead to changes in the vaginal environment as the pH level of semen is around pH 8, making it alkaline. Excessive cleaning or douching can also cause significant disruption of the vaginal environment.
Vaginal pH value can have a profound impact on our lives as women. Studies have shown that an increase in vaginal pH may even lead to serious complications such as spontaneous preterm deliveries during pregnancy .
How can I check vaginal pH levels?
If you are concerned about your vaginal pH levels, particularly if you suspect an infection, it’s important to see your doctor or gynaecologist to rule out any underlying conditions.
Vaginal pH testing kits and strips are available to purchase online or from many pharmacies. These give you the option of checking your pH levels from the comfort of your home. They often involve taking a swab of your vagina or placing a paper ‘stick’ inside your vagina. The swab or paper stick will usually change colour to indicate your pH level. Always read the instructions carefully.
Restore pH levels with pH matched feminine products
When it comes to intimate health, we recommend opting for pH matched products designed specifically for use in or around the vagina.
YES® products are all certified organic and have been expertly crafted to respect delicate vaginal and vulval tissue. All our water-based products are pH-matched to the vagina and help to restore healthy pH levels. You can read more about our strict ingredients policy here.
YES® WB, our water-based lubricant and YES® VM, our award-winning vaginal moisturiser both provide soothing relief from burning, irritation and discomfort in and around the vagina. Each are recommended by a wide range of healthcare professionals and are available on NHS prescription.
YES® CLEANSE is our range of ultra gentle intimate foam washes, pH matched to the vagina. Certified organic and designed to be side-effect free, YES® CLEANSE washes away odour-causing bacteria without irritation.
Whilst only water-based products can have a pH measurement, our plant-oil based products are also an excellent choice for those of you wanting to look after your intimate health. YES® OB, our plant oil-based personal lubricant is deeply nourishing and long-lasting, offering soothing relief from vaginal dryness and extra protection for delicate intimate tissue.