Does bacterial vaginosis affect the pH of the vagina?

By | July 5, 2017

A woman’s vagina can be considered an ecosystem because of the number of bacteria residing there. It’s not a cause for alarm, however, as the good bacteria is quite beneficial and meant to keep the bad bacteria under control.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV), an extremely uncomfortable infection in the vagina, occurs when there are more bad bacteria than good, causing the infamous fishy odor, irritation, and abnormal white discharge in the vagina. In fact, 40 to 50% of cases of abnormal vaginal discharge point to BV as a cause.

pH or power of Hydrogen determines the number of good and bad bacteria in the vagina. The pH refers to the level of acidity in a water-soluble substance. In this case, the normal and healthy level of pH in a woman’s vagina ranges from 3.5 to 4.5. It indicates that there is an ideal number of good bacteria as opposed to the bad bacteria, which generally causes irritation, infection, and bad odor.

Many things can provoke the pH in the vagina to rise above 4.5.

First on the list is the discharge during a woman’s menstruation. The normal pH of blood is 7.4. Having said that, it can easily elevate the vaginal pH during that time of the month.

Sexual intercourse is another possible cause, since the pH of semen is between 7.1 to 8, which can cause an imbalance in the pH levels in a woman’s vagina.
When hormones fluctuate, pH levels fluctuate as well, explaining why pregnancy and menopause may contribute to a sudden rise in pH levels.

Tampons may also result in a rise of pH levels. If one forgets to remove a tampon, the amount of time it was in there may have kept the vagina continually exposed to the high-pH level fluids accumulated in the tampon. After all, the bad bacteria that caused the infection in the first place will flourish in elevated pH levels.

Finally, cleansers, soaps, and other so-called “pH-balanced” feminine washes, which basically infuse water, fragrances, and perfumes, may irritate the vagina. These hygiene products may have a pH of 5.5 or higher, possibly stripping away the good bacteria and further inducing an imbalance of pH levels.

Women experiencing recurring bacterial vaginosis report that intercourse or their period is what triggers the BV each time. Unfortunately, although sex and monthly periods are relatively normal “events” which most women’s bodies can handle, some women are more susceptible to bacterial vaginosis, with just a slight imbalance resulting in the infamous unfavorable odor and irritation to flare up.

However, BV is more than irritating odor and discharge. It must be treated as it can lead to more serious medical conditions like premature delivery, post-hysterectomy infection, subsequent infertility, increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, and increased risk of STDs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.

The main solution to bacterial vaginosis that local pharmacies and gynecologists will probably recommend are vaginal gels that are designed to restore pH levels back to normal. An oral probiotic lactobacillus may also be prescribed to maintain the normal number of vaginal lactobacilli.