Better Me

Vaginal pH: What It Means and How to Keep Things Balanced Down There

Nowadays, we hear everyone talking about gut health and the microbiome. But it’s time to have an honest talk about something that doesn’t get nearly enough attention: vaginal pH. 

Your vagina has its own little ecosystem going on too – and it’s pretty important. It’s home to millions of tiny organisms (bacteria) that keep things running smoothly down there. And here’s the kicker: They are super picky about the environment they live in. That’s where vaginal pH comes into play. When your pH balance is thrown off, it can lead to all sorts of issues. 

Eating things like yogurt with probiotics can help your gut, but how do you help  keep things balanced down there? Emilee Sandsmark, MD, an OBGYN with Banner Health, is here to shed some light on this important topic and what to do if there’s ever a problem.

What is vaginal pH, and what is considered normal?

Let’s start with the basics. pH measures how acidic or alkaline something is on a scale of 0 to 14. For reference, a pH of 7 is neutral. Below 7 is more acidic, and anything above 7 is more basic (alkaline).

“A healthy level of vaginal pH for a person in reproductive years is 4.0 to 4.5 acidic and can be higher than 4.5 after menopause,” Dr. Sandsmark said. 

Just like Goldilocks and her porridge, we want our vaginal pH to be just right. The normal pH level of a healthy vagina is somewhat acidic, which helps prevent more harmful microorganisms such as E. coli, strep, yeast and others from growing. 

Things that can throw your vaginal pH off balance

Like gut health, maintaining the perfect pH balance isn’t always easy. Many things can disrupt the delicate equilibrium of your vagina’s pH, causing it to change.


An unbalanced pH can be a welcome invitation for vaginal infections like yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis (BV), as well as providing less protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). BV is the most common type of vaginal infection when unhealthy bacteria take over the vaginal flora (good bacteria).


Antibiotics are great at getting rid of unwanted bad bacteria but can sometimes kill off good bacteria as well so their use should be minimized when possible. 


The vulva and vagina are self-cleaning.  Products like douches and vaginal sprays not only flush bad bacteria away but good bacteria, too.

“Many people think that vaginal discharge and episodes of vaginitis are due to poor hygiene, so they overcorrect with soaps and douching products,” Dr. Sandsmark said. “Varying levels of discharge are normal and don’t always indicate an infection. If infection has been ruled out, then it Is important to let your vulva and vagina just be.”

Hormonal changes

From menstruation to pregnancy to menopause, your body constantly goes through hormonal changes. These changes can throw things off balance, and it’s not unusual to experience episodes of vaginitis related to these changes. 

Sexual activity

Sex can mess with your vaginal pH, too. Both semen (a basic or alkaline substance) and lubricants can upset your vaginal pH balance. To lower your risk, consider using condoms when having sex. 

“If you struggle with recurrent BV or yeast infections, consider water or silicone-based lubricants that are as close to a pH of 4.5 and have an osmolality (the concentration of dissolved particles in fluid) of less than 1,200 mOsm/kg—the closer to 380, the better,” Dr. Sandsmark said. “This information isn’t typically found on the label, but there are websites that have tables listing the pH and osmolality.”

Dr. Sandsmark said Good Clean Love is the best commercial product that meets both criteria. Another option is to use coconut oil; however, oils can break down latex condoms and increase your risk for STIs and unintended pregnancies, so it’s better to use a water-based lube when using condoms.

Signs your vaginal pH balance is off

When your vaginal pH is out of whack, your body will often let you know through the following symptoms:

  • A change in the odor of your vaginal discharge, like a fishy smell
  • Unusual thick, white discharge
  • Itching in and around your vagina
  • A burning feeling when you pee

See your health care provider if you experience any of these issues or if you struggle with vaginal pH imbalance.  

Tips for keeping your pH balance in check

Your vagina is a complex organ with a unique microbiome all its own, but here are some steps you can take to help with a healthy vaginal pH:

  • Skip the soap: Remember, your vagina cleans itself. It doesn’t need fancy soaps or douches. Just use warm water when you shower and let your body do its thing. If you do choose to use soap, make it a mild facial cleanser. 
  • Cotton is cool: Wear 100% cotton underwear. Avoid thongs and tight-fitting clothes. Cotton lets your bits breathe and keeps things dry, which helps prevent infections. Consider 100% cotton menstrual pads, tampons and period underwear.
  • Change after you swim or workout: Do not sit or remain in wet bathing suits or damp clothes for long periods of time. Wetness can create a cozy home for bad organisms to grow.
  • Be kind to your vagina: Avoid using scented products or harsh chemicals around your vagina. Chemicals found in laundry detergents, fabric softeners, deodorant soaps and toilet tissue can contain chemicals that might irritate your vulva and vagina.
  • Practice safe sex: Use condoms to protect your vagina from alkaline semen.
  • Eat a balanced diet: Eating right and staying hydrated isn’t just good for your gut. It’s good for your vagina, too. 

“There are several foods that are thought to be high in active cultures (good bacteria) that are good for you,” Dr. Sandsmark said. “These foods include Greek yogurt, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, fermented pickles (brined in salt water), beet kvass, cottage cheese, tempeh and green olives.”


When it comes to your vaginal health, pH balance is key. Just like your gut, your vagina has its own delicate ecosystem that needs care and attention. Be mindful of the things that can throw off your vaginal pH and take steps to maintain a healthy balance. If you think something is off, see your health care provider or a Banner Health specialist who can check your symptoms and perform any tests you may need.

If you enjoyed this blog, you should also check out:

Product information in this article is provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; it does not constitute an endorsement or an approval by Banner Health of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation or organization or individual.

Gynecology Women's Health Wellness