Several things can throw off your vaginal pH balance, including unprotected sex. But, there are ways to decrease the changes and keep your vulva healthy.
Semen is alkaline and can increase the pH of your vulva, so wearing protection during intercourse is important. Douching products and soaps can also disrupt your vulva’s natural acidic pH.
1. Unprotected Penetrative Sex
Unprotected sex can lead to infections like bacterial vaginosis (BV) and yeast infections. It also increases your risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs). This is because bacteria that enters the urethra during sexual intercourse can cause an imbalance in your vaginal pH level, resulting in discomfort, itching, or burning sensations when you pee. To decrease your chances of infection, always use a condom and avoid using scented or flavored lubricants. Urinating after sexual intercourse helps flush out any bacteria that entered your urethra, reducing the likelihood of UTIs and maintaining a healthy pH balance in your vulva.
Semen has an alkaline pH of 7.2 to 8.0, which can increase your vaginal acidity and disrupt the natural environment in your vulva for up to 10 or 14 hours. This change in pH can create an ideal environment for pathogenic fungi and bacteria, which could lead to BV or yeast infections. In addition, sex introduces new bacteria to your microbiome, which can further affect the pH balance in your vulva. Fortunately, this isn’t a reason to abstain forever, but it is something to keep in mind for your health.
A woman’s pH is normally acidic and helps protect the vulva from harmful bacteria, which is why keeping it balanced is so important. However, antibiotics can alter the microbiome and throw off your vagina’s natural pH balance. Douching, certain types of lubricants (especially those with added chemicals and fragrances), and even using scented soap or douche can also disrupt your vaginal pH levels and increase the growth of unwanted bacteria.
Having unprotected sex with any partner can also introduce bacteria to the vulva, and because semen is alkaline, it can alter your vulva’s acidic environment, which makes it difficult for sperm to reach the egg. A quick wash of the female intimate area with warm water and unscented soap after intercourse can help to rebalance your pH.
Urinating after sexual activity can also flush any bacteria that enters the urethra, lowering your risk of urinary tract infections. You can purchase a pH test kit at most pharmacies to check your vaginal pH level. And if you notice an unusual odor, change in the consistency of your discharge, or unexplained vaginal itching, schedule an appointment with a Banner Health women’s health specialist for personalized guidance.
You might hear about pH, or acid-to-alkaline ratios, in a chemistry class, but the human body has its own pH balances that matter for things like infection prevention and healthy pregnancies. Each part of the body has its own acidity and alkaline levels, which are controlled by hormones.
Hormones are chemicals that send messages to different parts of the body to control functions such as blood pressure, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart rate, and physical development. They are also responsible for keeping the immune system strong and regulating the circadian rhythm or sleep cycle.
Some of the biggest factors that can throw off a person’s vaginal pH include menstruation and antibiotics. The presence of menstrual blood increases the acidity of the vagina and may cause bacterial infections such as BV or yeast, which typically manifest with a fishy odor and thick grey-like discharge.
Taking precautions during sex, such as using a condom and changing it after each use, and avoiding semen, which is more basic than the vagina’s acidic environment, can help keep a person’s vaginal pH at an optimal level. Additionally, avoiding harsh soaps and douching can help as well.
4. Body Washes
Women’s bodies need a slightly acidic pH level to prevent harmful bacteria, like bacterial vaginosis (BV) or yeast infections, from taking over. A normal vaginal pH is between 3.8 and 4.5. This is lower than water or sperm, which have an alkaline pH level. Douching, using vaginal lubricants, and taking estrogen-containing medications can also raise the pH of the vagina.
When it comes to a vaginal pH imbalance, you may notice unusual odors, itching or discomfort around the anal area and vulva. Abnormal discharge, such as a fishy odor or a change in consistency, is also a sign that something is off with your vaginal health.
It’s important to practice good hygiene habits, especially after sexual intercourse, and make sure you use condoms. Also, make it a habit to urinate after each sexual encounter. This will help flush bacteria out of the urethra, decreasing the chance of UTIs and other infections. If you’re concerned that your vaginal pH is out of balance, contact a Banner Health women’s health specialist. They’ll assess your symptoms and provide the care you need.
5. New Partner
Your vagina is a delicate ecosystem that relies on healthy bacteria to keep itself clean and functional. Changing factors such as menstruation, body wash and fragranced products used down there, or even an unprotected sex session with a new partner can throw off your pH balance.
Your sex partner’s bacteria can also introduce new germs that don’t play well with yours. This can lead to a bacterial infection known as bacteriosis vaginitis, or BV, which often causes itching and a foul odor. It’s not an STD and can be treated with an over-the-counter or prescription medication from your GP or sexual health clinic.
You don’t need to fear that you have an STI if you experience symptoms after sex with a new partner, but it’s important to understand how it can affect your body’s microbiome and pH balance. By staying on top of proper hygiene, you can ensure that your vagina stays its happiest. And don’t forget to always use condoms when it comes to sex! It’s the best way to protect yourself against unwanted infections.