An unbalanced vaginal pH can ultimately lead to more serious illness and raises your risk for pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and STDs. So, if you’re experiencing any of these vaginal symptoms, you may want to test your vaginal pH to help you decide whether or not you need medical treatment.
How to Perform a Vaginal pH Test at Home
There are many test kits on the market, so it’s important to read the instructions that come with your test and follow the how-tos. In general, you’ll want to follow this expert advice that tends to apply to all at-home vaginal pH tests:
Step No. 1:
Wash your hands. You don’t want any bacteria, soap or hand lotion residue, or anything that might be hanging out on your hands mixing with the test strip.
Step No. 2:
Remove the pH swab from its packaging by the swab’s handle. It’s important that the pH paper doesn’t come in contact with anything—including your skin, your bathroom countertop, anything!
Step No. 3:
Hold the pH swab handle between your pointer finger and your thumb, and make sure the test strip is facing your thumb. Then, spread your labia with your other hand, insert the test strip into your vagina, and hold it there for 5 seconds. (Be sure to tilt the swab so the pH paper comes in contact with your vaginal wall.)
Step No. 4:
Remove the swab, being careful not to touch the paper, and compare the color of the strip with the color chart that came with your test. Some tests will provide a pH value based on this chart; others will only read “normal” or “abnormal.”
Interestingly, at-home vaginal pH tests are practically identical to the ones your doctor would use at an in-office visit, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, your doctor will be able to provide a more thorough assessment and analysis of your overall vaginal health based on your health history, a physical exam, and other lab tests.
Interpreting Your Vaginal pH Test Results
It’s important to keep in mind that a vaginal pH test only measures vaginal acidity. That means it does not definitively diagnose any medical condition, STD, or other infection.
So, if your test results show your vaginal pH is more alkaline than it should be, take a deep breath, try not to freak out, and make an appointment with your gynecologist who can do further testing to help you figure out what exactly is going on. What’s more, if your vaginal pH test shows you’re in the normal range—but you have unusual symptoms—it’s still important to see your doctor.
In general, an elevated vaginal pH (anything over 4.5) may suggest bacterial vaginosis (BV), particularly when it’s accompanied with common symptoms of BV (like itchiness, vaginal discharge, and an unpleasant odor).
How to Maintain a Healthy, Normal Vaginal pH
While some things that mess with an optimal vaginal pH are out of your control, there are a few steps you can take to give yourself the best shot at maintaining balance: