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How to Balance pH After Sex

Vaginal pH levels between 3.8 and 4.5 are important for infection prevention, healthy pregnancies, and hormonal changes.1

Unprotected penetrative sex can throw off your normal pH level because semen has a higher pH than your body’s natural acidity.

Luckily, there are simple things you can do to get your ph back on track after sex.

1. Don’t douch it

Douching is a bad idea for more reasons than one. Not only can it wreak havoc with the natural pH levels of the vulva, but it may also wash away healthy bacteria, increasing vaginal odor and making a person more vulnerable to infections. This is because scented douches and wipes often contain harsh chemicals that disrupt the microbiome. Douching isn’t even effective at cleaning the vulva. It often results in irritation, itching and unusual discharge or odor.

It’s important to avoid doing things that disrupt the vaginal microbiome, especially if a woman is sexually active. Scented lubricants and other feminine hygiene products can upset the ph balance, as can certain medications used by women during fertility treatments or menopause, as well as semen. Having unprotected sex with multiple partners also can throw off the ph balance, as sperm is more alkaline than the naturally acidic vulva. Using condoms during intercourse can help prevent this from happening, as will regularly changing tampons. These simple changes will reduce the likelihood of an infection and keep the ph balanced.

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2. Don’t drink too much water

Although it’s a good idea to drink plenty of water after sex, overdoing it could disrupt the pH balance. The reason is that too much liquid can dilute the body’s acid-base levels, making them too basic. In addition, drinking too much fluid can cause an excess of urine production in the bladder, which can lead to a UTI.

The lungs and kidneys are the organs that control the acid-base levels in the bloodstream. The lungs release carbon dioxide to make sure the body isn’t too basic, while the kidneys release an appropriate amount of alkaline to maintain pH balance.

During unprotected sex, semen (sperm) is more alkaline than the natural acidity of the vagina, which may temporarily alter its pH level. This usually right itself after intercourse, but if the pH level isn’t restored, it can result in an infection, including vulva inflammation and chunky yellow or green discharge.

Women can help to rebalance their pH level by washing the vulva with gentle, non-scented soaps and using clean towels to dry it. Changing tampons frequently and using protection during sex can also decrease the risk of an imbalance or infections.

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3. Don’t smoke

Semen is alkaline by nature, and when sperm mixes with the acidic vaginal fluids it can change the pH balance of the area. Unprotected sex can throw off the natural vaginal pH and make it difficult to fight off unhealthy bacteria. Using protection during sex and avoiding smoking can help keep the pH of the vagina at its normal level. It can also reduce the likelihood of a yeast infection. If you suspect an infection, call your provider.

4. Don’t eat too much

Unprotected sex can have an impact on your pH levels because semen is alkaline by nature. In addition, when sex isn’t protected with a condom the sperm’s pH rises to protect it on its journey to an egg. These changes can temporarily disrupt your vagina’s natural acidity, which can cause bacterial overgrowth and unusual discharge. Luckily, this usually corrects itself after intercourse, and washing your vulva with mild soaps and washes will help rebalance the pH.

Changing your tampons regularly will also help keep your pH level in balance. You can help prevent a tampon-related pH imbalance by changing your tampon every four to eight hours, as this helps reduce the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), which can cause a fever, low blood pressure, vomiting and diarrhea.

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The pH level of your vulva can also change during menstruation, perimenopause and menopause, due to a drop in hormone levels. There are at-home test kits to measure your vaginal pH level, but it’s best to visit a Banner Health women’s health specialist for an assessment.

5. Don’t take any medications

You may be more used to hearing pH in a chemistry class, but the human body also has a natural pH level that balances bacteria inside the vagina and prevents infections. When this balance is disrupted, women can experience symptoms like itching and a chunky, cottage cheese-like discharge. These imbalances can also lead to bacterial vaginosis, or BV.

A variety of things can affect the pH balance of a woman’s vulva, including hormones, fragranced wash products, and menstrual blood. During menstruation, the pH of a woman’s vulva becomes higher than normal, and this can cause itching or burning sensations. Using a mild, unscented soap or cleanser and changing tampons regularly help keep a healthy pH balance.

In addition, it’s important to avoid douching and use protection during sex. A gynecologist or Banner Health women’s health specialist can recommend home remedies and at-home tests to monitor pH levels. If you notice a change in your symptoms, call your provider right away. Getting an early diagnosis can help prevent serious complications and decrease your risk of infection.