Maintaining the pH balance of the vagina is essential to keeping it healthy. A pH below 7 is acidic, while a pH above 7 is basic. A normal vaginal pH is usually less than 4.5. The lower the number, the more acidic the vaginal environment will be.
Doctors can take a vaginal pH measurement to determine how acidic the vaginal environment is. It is also possible to test this at home.
In the vagina, a high pH may cause infections as it can allow bacteria and yeast to thrive.
Learn more about normal vaginal pH levels, how to test them at home, and what to do to restore vaginal pH balance.
What are normal vaginal pH levels?
Vaginal pH can change over time as a person ages.
A normal vaginal pH is between 3.8 and 4.5. A pH level within this range can help to keep bacterial and fungal infections at bay.
Lactobacilli bacteria live in the vagina and secrete lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide, which give the vagina its acidic pH level.
Vaginal pH can change throughout a person’s lifetime. It is usually higher than 4.5 before a person has their first menstrual period and after menopause.
Vaginal pH is usually less than 4.5 during a woman’s reproductive years unless a condition or infection raises it.
What changes vaginal pH?
Several conditions and infections can affect the vaginal pH balance, usually by increasing pH levels.
Causes of changes in vaginal pH include the following:
Bacterial vaginosis is a medical condition that occurs when too much bacteria is present in the vagina. This can cause an increase in vaginal pH levels.
A person with bacterial vaginosis may experience itching, burning, or pain in the vagina. They may also feel a burning sensation when urinating and notice a white or gray discharge.
Douching refers to washing or cleaning the vagina using particular solutions, such as those containing vinegar or baking soda.
These solutions claim to reduce vaginal odor, but, in fact, they may worsen the smell. This is because they wash out good bacteria, which affects the vaginal pH balance and can make someone more prone to infections.
One study found that women tend to have higher pH levels during menopause. In the study, women in menopause had an average vaginal pH of 5.3.
Reduced estrogen levels during menopause may affect a person’s vaginal pH.