To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders

Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications

How Do You Know If Your pH Levels Are Out?

How Do You Know If Your pH Levels Are Out?

When it comes to discussing women’s intimate health, vaginal odour and discharge aren’t topics we often talk about over a glass of wine with

Mel Ho

Mel Ho

When it comes to discussing women's intimate health, vaginal odour and discharge aren't topics we often talk about over a glass of wine with our friends.

So it's no surprise that while most of us have heard of the gut microbiome - a collection of trillions of tiny microorganisms in your intestines - the microbiome of the vulva and vagina is still a bit of a mystery.

Just like looking after your gut, however, it's important to keep the health and pH balance of this intimate area at an optimum level.

"The vagina and vulva are occupied by a carefully balanced microbiome ecosystem of good and bad bacteria, which maintain a slightly acidic environment of 3.5-4.5 pH," says health expert, Dr Frankie Jackson-Spence.

If the microbiome is healthy and balanced, you shouldn't have any discomfort in your vagina or vulva. However if the pH of this delicate area is upset, you may experience some symptoms.

"When the balance is upset, the area can become less acidic, which can manifest as a change in your normal vaginal odour or discharge, and you may also experience symptoms of vaginal dryness or discomfort," Dr Frankie says.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

While it's natural for your vagina to have some discharge and odour, which alters throughout the menstrual cycle, what you should look out for is a change from your normal.

"It's important to be clued up on what's your own normal, as a change in pH and a change from your own normal discharge or odour could be a sign of infection," Dr Frankie adds.

Thankfully, keeping this sensitive spot healthy doesn't take much effort at all, as the vagina produces a clear discharge as a method of cleaning itself. And sometimes, it can be washing too much that can cause issues.

"The most common cause for a change in vaginal odour is an infection called Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)," says Dr Frankie.

"A common misconception is that BV is caused by poor hygiene. In fact, it is often excessive cleaning of the intimate area, often with harsh soaps or fragranced products, that disrupts the natural balance of bacteria making the area less-acidic and allowing certain bacteria to thrive."

Menstruation, using sex toys, and wearing non-cotton underwear or sweaty gym tights for long periods can also disturb the natural acidity of the vagina and vulva.

And the tell tale signs of a pH imbalance can often be quite easy to spot.

"The result is often an unpleasant fishy odour and a greyish-white thin, watery discharge," says Dr Frankie.

Simple ways to minimise BV is to wear breathable cotton underwear and only wash once per day, using either just warm water or an un-fragranced wash, such as Femfresh sensitive wash, which is pH balanced to keep everything in harmony.

Words by Delicia Smith

Featured Image Credit: RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Topics: advice, Health