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Vaginal pH balance: what you need to know

Vaginal pH balance: what you need to know

If you are like me, literally no one has ever spoken to you about vaginal flora (vaginal pH). Not your mom, not your best girlfriend, not even your gynecologist! And if you’re like me, you didn’t know about this delicate environment until you had a problem. Raise both hands! You deserve a double high-five sister because you aren’t alone! We’re talking about all the messy details today. 

What is vaginal pH? 

You’ve probably heard of pH levels in your body and having them run acidic or alkaline. Most everything in your body gets along while this is in balance. Your vagina is no exception. You may remember from chemistry that the pH of something determines how acidic or basic it is, and you might be surprised to learn that the pH of your vagina directly relates to its health. What is a normal vaginal pH? It falls somewhere between 3.5 to 4.5, and if you’re healthy it should regulate itself and keep it in this acidic range. When your vaginal pH is out of that range (above or below) you will likely notice an unpleasant odor or discharge. 

What can cause an imbalance in vaginal flora?

There are several ways your vaginal pH balance could be off, all of which are super common. 

Unprotected sex. Semen is a very alkaline substance and can throw off your flora. If you have a new partner, you could be especially susceptible to this. It’s a foreign substance and your vaginal flora is trying desperately to protect you.

Douching. Do not douche. I’m not even sure why douching exists, to be honest. Even your gynecologist will tell you it’s unhealthy and disruptive to your body’s chemistry. It’s equivalent to throwing a bomb in your lady parts. If you feel you need to douche, then there may be a problem already occurring and a visit to your doctor would be best. 

Antibiotics. While they are used during infection and do serve a purpose, they are definitely on our list of gut-bombs. They are designed to wipe out absolutely everything (the good, the bad and the ugly) in order to kill whatever infection is ailing you. However, with that, you’ve now wiped out your good bacteria. At this time, it’s incredibly easy for your vaginal pH balance to be thrown off. Have you ever noticed that after a two week prescription of antibiotics, you have to now battle a yeast infection? Bingo. 

Soaps. Did you know that you actually don’t have to use soap down there? I know it sounds crazy, but it’s a beautifully working machine and is designed to take care of itself! We know that shelves in the feminine aisle are lined with flashy packaging and products that seem to make us think we need them. Nope, according to Mayo Clinic, anything but rinsing with warm water is considered excessive. 

What you eat. We are what we eat, we all know this, right? What you consume plays a heavy role in your body’s overall health as well as your vaginal pH balance. Candida (yeast) feeds off of sugars and if you find that you are prone to yeast infections, steer clear. If you’re tired of buying creams or taking a prescription for a yeast infection, maybe consider doing a candida diet. It’s a way of eating for a couple of weeks that inhibits the growth of candida. 

Menstrual period. Menstrual blood is on the acidic side and can change the vaginal pH balance. There is a lot happening in your vagina during those few days, and if you’re in balance for the rest of the month, your body has a way of working it out. The first couple of days after your period has stopped you may notice a difference, but hang tight and see how your body corrects itself. If it persists, make a call to your doctor for testing. 

menstrual cup versus tampon

How do I know if my vaginal pH is off balance?

You should be able to tell almost right away. You may pick up a fishy odor or notice the discharge is off-color. Bacterial Vaginosis and candida (yeast) are the most common infections that come with pH imbalance. BV (bacterial vaginosis) will carry with it a strong fishy odor and a thick grey-like discharge. Yeast will show signs of a thick white discharge and intense itching. 

Can tampons mess up your pH balance?

Tampons have long been linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) which could be a life-threatening infection. This is believed to happen if tampons are soaked in menses and left in the vagina too long. A tampons job is to soak up whatever it comes in contact with. It’s dry cotton. It’s going to do exactly that. If you don’t use the right size or absorbency (like using a super tampon on a lighter flow day), it can soak up your vaginal fluids as well which is where all of the bacteria live. This will leave you susceptible to infection. We recently talked about vaginal dryness and tampon use.

Can menstrual cups cause infections?

In short, if they are used (and cared for) properly there is no link between menstrual cups and infections. Menstrual cups are approved to be left in the vagina for up to 12 hours, safely. At this point, they would need to be emptied and washed prior to being reinserted. Here at Pixie Cup, we formulated a menstrual cup wash that will not throw off your vaginal pH balance. If menstrual cups are used correctly, they are actually ideal for maintaining your natural vaginal pH balance. Menstrual cups are a cup-shaped device made of medical-grade silicone that sits in the vaginal canal. It doesn’t soak up anything. It collects the menstrual blood to be discarded later. 

How can I maintain a healthy vaginal pH balance?

Take a probiotic. Gut health plays a heavy role in how our body functions. There are certain types of bacteria that live in our stomach, intestinal tract and in our vagina. Taking a probiotic designed uniquely for your lady parts is a great place to start. Check those out here

See your gynecologist regularly. Going for scheduled exams is the best way to keep up on what’s happening down there. If you regularly get exams, your doctor will be able to build up a track record and it will be easier to see if something is off. Tracking your period and any symptoms that occur after your period can be helpful in bringing accurate information to your doctor. 

Avoid tight + synthetic clothing. Yoga pants are all the rage these days as well as leggings. If you’re truly using them to work out, be sure to replace them after the work out with breathable pants. Cotton underwear is also crucial as it wicks moisture away from the body.

If your balance has been thrown off, it takes time to get your lady groove back in shape. Don’t be discouraged. With time and help from your doctor, everything will work out! Have you been researching alternative period care? Have you thought about trying a menstrual cup? Finding the best one to fit your needs is important! Check out our online store for different cup styles and sizes.

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PLEASE NOTE: This blog post is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of your doctor. You should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to your health and particularly with respect to anything related to menstruation and vaginal health. If you have any concerns about using a Pixie Cup, consult your doctor before use. If you have any gynecological conditions, please talk to your physician.

Menstrual cups, Tampons and Vaginal Dryness

Menstrual cups, Tampons and Vaginal Dryness

How are you *down there* after your period ends? Does your body snap back to normal quickly? Do you find that if you are an avid tampon user you tend to be dry? Some studies suggest that tampons can cause vaginal dryness. 

tampon and menstrual cup

How do tampons cause vaginal dryness?

Chronic vaginal dryness usually is a deeper issue. It can be related to hormones, hydration, and your general pH + flora being in (or out of) line. However, tampons can exacerbate the issue. Tampons, in general, are an extremely absorbent material made to do just that… absorb. In turn, it absorbs everything… and we mean everything. The good, the bad + the ugly!

Here are a few ways tampons can cause vaginal dryness:

  1. You use a tampon the day after your period… just in case! Your body is at a crucial point the few days after your period. It’s working hard to restore the pH to normal and put everything in balance. By inserting a tampon at this time, you’re basically only absorbing the good stuff. Reach for a panty liner or a reusable pad instead if you’re worried!
  2. You only use one level of absorbency through your entire menstruation. While it’s tempting to buy the value pack loaded with supers or super plus tampons, there are different absorbency levels for a reason. Once your menstruation lightens, there is less to soak up, so a super tampon is absorbing more than your menses and is going to capture the normal vaginal fluids. By soaking up the good bacteria as well, you’re leaving your vagina susceptible to an imbalance, which can lead to multiple types of infections.
  3. You use scented tampons. It’s mighty tempting to use a scented menstrual product to help mask the smell during that time of the month, we get it! Added scents, fragrances, and perfumes are harsh on the vagina and can throw off the pH. 

Does a menstrual cup cause vaginal dryness?

The quick answer to this is a resounding no! Menstrual cups are made of medical-grade silicone and do not absorb any fluid at all. They are goblet-shaped and the concept is to be inserted in the vagina to collect (rather than absorb) period blood. Because they are made of materials like silicone and create airtight seals inside the vagina, menstrual cups don’t encourage bacterial growth, so concerns of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) are diminished greatly. Especially when you’re sterilizing your cup or washing it with soap as you should.

Unlike tampons, menstrual cups can be worn worry-free for up to 12 hours! During the heavier days of your cycle, they will become fuller faster and may need to be emptied more often. Women are switching to menstrual cups for the freedom they offer, the protection they have + the comfort they give! But don’t take our word for it; here are stories from 17 women who made the switch.

tampons and menstrual cup vaginal dryness

How can tampons cause infection?

While we’ve mentioned Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), tampons can lead to other infections such as bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection. Unfortunately, both are caused by either an overgrowth or undergrowth of bacteria already present in the vagina. 

Here are some common ways a tampon can cause infection:

  1. You only wash your hands after insertion. Cleaning your hands after insertion only makes sense… you might get a little messy. However, being aware of what could potentially be on your hands before you insert is a big one too. 
  2. You don’t change your tampon every time you relieve yourself. Your tampon absorbs urine very quickly after going to the bathroom. At this point your tampon isn’t effective and is just hanging onto urine in your vagina. During a bowel movement, the muscles cause your tampon to shift or even come out partially. If the tampon catches any fecal matter, you could be headed for an infection.
  3. You forget to take it out. The last day of our cycle can tend to be light. Life gets busy and you realize a couple of days later you still haven’t taken it out! Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a serious condition related to bacteria overgrowth when a substance is left in your body for too long.
  4. You don’t change it after swimming. Like with urinating, your tampon has now absorbed all that excess fluid. This time, it’s bleach water from swimming in a pool or salt water from the ocean. 

How do I encourage vaginal health?

You’ve probably heard of pH levels in your body and having them run acidic or alkaline. Most everything in your body runs super-friendly while this is in balance. Your vagina is no exception! 

Drink lots of water. Being hydrated keeps your vagina happy. You experience a dry mouth as an indicator of dehydration and a dry vagina can mean that too. It’s recommended that you drink eight 8-oz glasses of water a day — more if you’re an athlete!

Take a probiotic. Probiotics and gut health awareness have come a long way in recent years. There are many different types of probiotics and many levels of potencies. Grab one from your local health food store that is geared toward “women’s health.” It will contain the unique strains that live in the vagina!

Avoid refined sugars. Yeast feeds on sugar, and an easy way to keep a yeast infection at bay is by minimizing refined sugars in your diet.

Avoid synthetic or tight clothing. We all own leggings. It’s hard not to! And yoga pants are a must! If you use these items for working out, be sure to change out of them as soon as you possibly can to rid your lady region of sweat + moisture, which would encourage bacteria growth.  

While we do not claim to be medical experts, we are here to help in any way we can! If you experience chronic vaginal dryness, it may be time to make an appointment with your gynecologist so they can run some tests and see what’s going on down there.

Have you thought about trying out a menstrual cup? We have a 100% Happiness Guarantee so if you don’t absolutely love your menstrual cup, we will refund you! What do you have to lose?

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PLEASE NOTE: This blog post is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of your doctor. You should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to your health and particularly with respect to anything related to menstruation. If you have any concerns about using a Pixie Cup, consult your doctor before use. If you have any gynecological conditions, please talk to your physician before using any menstrual cup.

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