Bad bacteria tend to make your vagina less acidic – (which sounds good – who wants an acid vagina?), but it’s not good. Your vagina should be, in chemistry terms, acidic – just a little more acidic than vitamin C.
This doesn’t mean it will burn – far from it. Remember, water is neutral at a pH of 7, and something really alkaline is about 12. Something really acidic is about 1. Even your skin is slightly acidic, with a pH of 5.5. Don’t worry about the term ‘acidic’, and try to avoid associating the popular concept of ‘alkalising your body’ with an alkaline vagina. These ideas are very different and cannot be linked. An acidic vagina is great.
Your vaginal pH should be in the low numbers (acidic), between 3.5 and 4.5. The pH scale goes from 0 – 13.
What is happening when your vagina becomes more alkaline
When your vagina becomes more alkaline, it means the wrong bacteria are making it that way on purpose so they can survive. This is the equivalent of say a gang of fish trying to flood a city so they can have more room for them and their friends. (Was this the fate of Atlantis?)
What that means is your lactobacilli – the healthy good bacteria that make your vagina smell sort of like nothing much most of the time – can’t survive, because they like different living environments. The fish that likes water and the animal that likes land. They just need different stuff to be happy and thrive.
Why lactobacilli are good for your vagina
Lactobacilli are the good bacteria that keep your vagina acidic, by producing lactic acid. This is sort of like the way we produce carbon dioxide when we breathe out. Lactic acid is the end result of a bacteria’s breath.
Lactobacilli eat lactose (a sugar found in milk) and other sugars, and spit out lactic acid the way we breathe in and breathe out, or eat food and then go to the toilet. The bacteria use the sugars they eat in exactly the same way that we do: as energy to survive, fight off other bacteria, and move around.
Lactobacilli are the same type of bacteria that turn milk into yoghurt (acidophilus) and why you can make yoghurt out of healthy vaginal secretions!). Lactobacilli are bacteria, but they don’t create bad smells, though the sour smell of fresh natural yoghurt can make the mouth water and may not be the most delicious smell to some people. Bacteria make all kinds of smells, because they produce gases and byproducts as part of their lifecycle.
Testing your vaginal pH at home quickly, cheaply and easily
You can test your vaginal pH quickly and easily at home, with cheap pH strips from the pharmacy or online. You do not need fancy equipment or special expensive pH strips for this – pH testers are all based on the same principle, which most of us have done in science class with litmus paper. pH strips are very cheap, so don’t get sucked into paying a lot.
All you need is a pH tester that ranges from 0-13, because you need the range your vagina may be at, which is between 3-9. Get a cotton tip, dip it into your vagina, then swipe the cotton tip across the coloured part of the pH tester strip. Try to get as much fluid on the cotton tip as you can. You can also use a clean finger to do this.
Don’t do the vaginal pH test when you have your period, as you will be unable to read the results – the pH strip relies on you interpreting the colour it gives you, matching it to the key to determine pH.
Understanding your vaginal pH test results
To read the results, you need to match the colour that the pH strip turns, to the coloured key on the pH strips packet. Your pH strip colours may vary from the below colours, but check the numbers and colours of your pH tester kit for accurate results.
- Normal vaginal pH is 3.5 – 4.5
- Bacterial vaginosis or aerobic vaginosis is above pH 4.5
- It is rare to have a pH of less than 3 or past 8 or 9, because vaginal pathogens or bacteria do not produce this pH