Periods & Changes in Vaginal pH
The vagina, an integral part of a woman's body, not only plays an important role in the reproduction cycle, but it is also important for the overall well-being. It is the only organ in the body that can self-clean but also contains yeasts and bacteria that helps to keep it healthy.
It is these good bacteria present in the vagina creates an acidic environment, which keeps any sort of infections at bay. However, this delicate balance sometimes gets thrown off due to certain life events or lifestyle changes leading to altering the functioning of the vaginal system.
When it’s in balance, pH supports a healthy vaginal microbiome. When it’s out of balance, it results in annoying problems such as itching, irritation, and vaginal infections.
Importance of pH levels and why is it important to vaginal health
Now before we go ahead and talk about how to maintain a normal vaginal pH level, we must understand what pH levels are and why are they important?
Medically, pH levels are a scale to measure the acidity and alkalinity.
These generally range from from 0 to 14 wherein a pH level lower than 7 is considered to be acidic and a pH level higher than 7 is considered to be alkaline. Now when it comes to a healthy vagina, pH levels are generally between 3.8 and 4.5, creating an acidic environment.
This slightly acidic vagina creates the perfect environment for the good bacteria to thrive in and help keep the vagina clean. A pH level of more than 4.5 can bring with itself uncomfortable conditions such as vaginitis, or inflammation of the vaginal tissue, while some infections can also make one susceptible to other serious conditions such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea.
Causes of vaginal pH imbalance:
There are a number of reasons as to why the pH levels in the vagina tend to change. It can be attributed to existing health conditions, lifestyle changes, periods amongst many other factors.
However today we will be discussing the effect the menstrual cycle has on the vaginal pH levels. As we have discussed that the vaginas maintain an acidic environment to promote the growth of good bacteria. However, during periods all of this gets affected. This is due to the higher pH level of the menstrual blood. At a pH level of 7.4, menstrual blood is slightly more basic, thereby altering/increasing the pH levels of the vagina. Another way menstrual blood alters the level is through an extended usage of sanitary napkins and or tampons.
The absorbed blood sits on the surface of these sanitary items and is in contact with the vaginal wall for longer than it should be which yet again creates an environment inhospitable for the good bacteria to thrive.
Tell-tale signs of a pH imbalance
Vaginal pH imbalance can be easily detected. Due to the unwanted yeast and bacterial growth, one may notice a change in the discharge odour, colour and texture. A healthy vaginal discharge does not have a fishy smell to it and is usually clear. Another classic symptom may be experiencing itching and burning sensation around the vaginal area.
How to maintain the pH balance during periods
Good hygiene is the first step towards maintaining a healthy vaginal pH level. It is during the periods one should pay extra attention to their hygiene. Extended usage of sanitary napkins and tampons are not only an invitation to inflammations and infections but can also avoid much serious conditions such as
Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). TSS occurs due to bacterial growth on tampons that have been inside the vagina for an extended period of time. This is a potentially fatal condition and can be avoided simply by following a good hygiene routine.
Another way vaginal pH levels can be maintained is by using high grade menstrual cups. As these cups collect the blood away from the vaginal walls, they tend to have little to no effect on the pH levels. Cleaning the cups with gentle cleansers before usage will ensure zero chances of any infection.
In conclusion one should just remember that by maintaining a healthy vaginal pH balance is a step towards improving one’s overall health and well-being. Following proper hygiene coupled with a good diet and lifestyle will go a long way in maintaining the vaginal health.