You might’ve seen marketing ads for products aimed at helping you maintain a healthy vaginal pH balance. But what exactly does that mean? And do you really need to add yet another item to your list of feminine care products?

To help answer all of your burning questions, we asked gynecologists to break down vaginal pH below.

What is vaginal pH?
For starters, pH levels determine how acidic or basic a substance is – a pH less than seven is considered acidic and a pH more than seven is considered basic. “A healthy vaginal pH is fairly acidic at 3.8 to 4.5,” says Julie Lamb, a member of Modern Fertility Medical Advisory Board. This depends a bit on your age, however, as a healthy vaginal pH level before menstruation and after menopause is a little higher than that.

Why does it matter?
“When your vagina is acidic, it stops unhealthy bacteria and yeast from multiplying, which prevents infections,” says Lamb. “If your pH is too high, it’s easier for bacteria to grow there — particularly bacteria like gardnerella vaginalis and escherichia coli that can cause bacterial vaginosis,” adds Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of obstetrics at Yale University.

When do you need to worry about it?
“You probably don’t have anything to worry about if you’re not experiencing any symptoms. However, if your vagina has an unusual odor, itching, or white, gray, or green discharge, that could be a sign of an unhealthy pH,” explains Lamb.

How can you figure out your vaginal pH?
“If you’re curious about your vaginal pH, there are over-the-counter vaginal pH tests,” says Ramos. You can also visit your doctor for a bacterial vaginosis screening or take a vaginal probiotic as a preventative measure. In general, though, you don’t need to worry if you don’t notice any of the symptoms mentioned above.

How can you maintain a healthy vaginal pH?
“A healthy pH generally comes from having enough good bacteria called lactobacilli in the vagina,” says Minkin. And, contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually need to buy anything to maintain a healthy vaginal pH. “The vagina is like a self-cleaning oven,” says Lamb. “You don’t need to do anything to keep it clean or healthy.” In fact, it’s recommended that you avoid harsh soaps and cleaning methods like douching that can kill off healthy vaginal bacteria.

xx, The FabFitFun Team