Ever worry that you’re not sufficiently concerned about your “feminine pH”? It’s a scary medical-sounding term that you’ve probably seen pop up in ads for everything from tampons to body wash. (And it makes me think of those little orange pH testing strips we used to use in high school chemistry, which I would prefer to keep out of my vagina.) One ad warns that “sex, your period, or even soap” could disrupt your vagina’s pH balance.
Wait a second…aren’t sex and periods (and soap, too!) pretty normal pieces of the whole vagina-having experience? Do we really need to buy special pH-regulating products to accommodate our fickle vaginas?
It turns out that while these ads are misleading, they’re not entirely wrong. Your vagina does have a normal pH level — around 4.5. This helps keep a healthy balance of yeast and bacteria. And if the pH level in your vagina gets too high, it can cause irritation or vaginitis. But the idea that sex and your period are inherently unhealthy or bad for the natural order of your vagina is totally false. The vagina has a pretty impressive self-regulating feature, and as long as you’re keeping things hygienic down there — that means washing your vulva with water or mild soap, changing pads or tampons frequently when you have your period, and avoiding douching — then chances are your pH level won’t be a problem.
And if you ever do suspect that something strange is going on with your vagina — like if it itches or burns, or you have unusual or bad smelling discharge — then you should see a health care provider right away. It might be a yeast infection or vaginitis, both of which are common and usually easily treatable.
-Alex at Planned Parenthood