Your vaginal pH is probably not something you’ve thought much about unless you’ve experienced a problem with it, or are struggling with infertility. pH is the balance between acidity and alkalinity in an environment, in this case the vagina. This delicate system usually works without the need for intervention, but can lose its balance. Let me share about the different types of pH problems to watch for and offer natural ways to overcome them, as well as the importance of having balanced vaginal pH.
The Importance of Fluctuating pH
The pH of the vagina is generally self-regulating. It ranges from 3.8-4.5 (slightly acidic) for most of the menstrual cycle. The acidic pH of the vagina serves an important role in your health, creating a natural barrier to infections like bacterial vaginosis (BV) and yeast overgrowth (Candida). However, vaginal pH needs to fluctuate to accommodate natural fertility.
The acidic pH of the vagina that fights bacteria and excess yeast can weaken and even kill sperm. It is during ovulation that surges in luteinizing hormone (LH) and an increase in cervical mucus cause pH to move into the 7-14 range, or more alkaline. This increase in cervical mucus and shift to a more alkaline pH allows sperm a chance to survive for up to 48 hours inside the female reproductive system. There, they can safely travel through the vagina and cervix into the fallopian tubes for conception.
What if Vaginal pH is too Alkaline?
A pH that is too alkaline decreases healthy vaginal flora and sets up an environment where infections like BV and Candida can flourish. Vaginal infections are transmitted sexually. Be aware of what’s happening with your body, so you don’t pass infections to your partner. BV in particular increases risk of other problems like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), chlamydia, and complications during pregnancy.
Signs of a vaginal pH imbalance to look for include:
- thick discharge
- changes in vaginal odor
- frequent vaginal infections
- itchiness or burning in vaginal area
Major Causes of Overly Acidic Vaginal pH
1. Dietary imbalance: If your diet is too high in acid-forming foods, your natural regulatory systems can’t maintain balance. Too many fried foods, fast foods, processed foods and sugars are usually the culprit. Tobacco, caffeine and alcohol also throw off pH balance. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is the first step to re-alkalizing the body. Having a green superfood drink daily like FertiliGreens can make a big difference.
2. Dehydration: Drinking plenty of water is extremely important for vaginal pH. A dehydrated body is an overly acidic body. The mucus membranes in the vagina require fluids to be supported and healthy. Without enough water, the cervical mucus that balances pH and supports fertility becomes too low. Drink plenty of water (at least 8 glasses) every day even if you’re not thirsty.
- arthritis, diabetes or borderline diabetes
- aging – natural enzyme systems become less efficient as we age
- high stress, obesity, and exposure to toxins
- use of topical lubricants – many effect vaginal pH and are not sperm friendly (consider a natural, sperm-friendly lubricant like Emerita Natural Lubricant instead)
- Cytolytic vaginosis (rare), which is an overgrowth of lactobacilli bacteria (if concerned, check with your physician to determine this)
Major Causes of Over Alkaline Vaginal pH
1. Lack of friendly microflora: Microflora like Lactobacillus naturally colonize in the vagina and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and yeast. While a helpful emergency measure for infections, antibiotics not only kill bad bacteria, but also healthy bacteria (microflora that keep pH balanced). If you’ve recently completed a course of antibiotics, supplementing with prebiotics or probiotics short term can restore pH balance. Eating more cultured foods like yogurt, kefir and raw sauerkraut can help too.
2. Reactions to sperm: Because sperm are naturally alkaline, their presence in the vagina can cause disruptions in pH. This is obvious for women who experience an odor change, inflammation or irritation after sex with their partners. If this sounds like you, immune support and systemic enzymes have the potential to provide relief.
3. Low estrogen levels: If estrogen is too low, pH levels drop and vaginal tissues become thin and irritated. Phytoestrogens like red clover and royal jelly can be helpful for this problem.
Is Your Vaginal pH Impacting your Fertility?
You can check your pH by purchasing at-home vaginal pH test kit from a pharmacy. Simply apply the test strip to the wall of the vagina for a few seconds or as directed. A chart should be included to tell you what your vaginal pH is.
Having balanced vaginal pH is a critical part of your fertility health. Start by following a healthy Fertility Diet. In addition, avoid the lifestyle factors mentioned in this article that disrupt vaginal pH. For women prone to pH issues, daily use of prebiotics and probiotics are a good choice to support a healthy vaginal environment.
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– Kiefer, D. (2008, March). Warding off chronic yeast and bacterial infections. Life Extension magazine. Retrieved from: http://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2008/3/warding-off-chronic-yeast-and-bacterial-infections/page-01
– Rai, Y., Suresh, A., Rajesh, A. & Bhat, R.M. (2009, Jan-June) Indian Journal of Sexually Transmitted Disease. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3168042/