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Vaginal pH in Different Life Stages

As women change in different life stages, their vaginal pH also changes

Dramatic changes are constant with women. This rings true particularly in the physical aspect.

As a woman, you go through critical phases in life such as puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. As you go through these sensational shifts, production levels of your major female hormones, estrogen (a major female hormone) and progesterone (another major female hormone) also changes. This hormonal imbalance disrupts the vaginal pH balance which might lead to the weakening of the vagina’s acidic protective layer, making it more susceptible to infection.

Vaginal pH in different life stages
  • At birth, lactobacilli is predominant in the vagina since the vaginal lining is still under the influence of the mother’s estrogen. The vaginal pH at this stage is low. Over the first two years of life, the maternally –derived estrogen wanes, the vaginal mucosa become thin and the pH rises to 6-7.5.

  • From menarche (me-nar-kee (FR) - the first menstruation) which ushers in puberty, lactobacillus is once again predominant due to rise of estrogen level. Lactic acid is now secreted abundantly in the vagina which makes vaginal pH decrease, producing a protective layer that guards against infection of the vagina.

  • During menstruation or pregnancy, the female hormone levels fluctuate, which in turn disrupts the pH balance of the vagina. This interference with the natural acidic environment of the vagina allows room for bad bacteria.

  • During menopause, hormones shift so it’s very common for most women to experience vaginal dryness due to fewer secretions of natural lubricants for the vagina. As hormone production decreases at this stage, the lactobacilli and lactic acid are also reduced, causing the vaginal pH to rise up to 6 – 7. This escalation weakens the acidic protective layer of the vagina and makes it more prone to harmful elements.


Sources

  • Dr. L. Brabin. Factors affecting vaginal pH levels among female adolescents attending genitominary medicine clinics. Sexually Transmitted Infections. 2005;81;483-487.

  • Kaufmann HR, Faro S. Benign Diseases of the vulva and the vagina 4th ed, Mosby 1994, 361.

  • Hay P. Bacterial vaginosis as a mixed infection. Polymicrobial Diseases 2002 edited by Kim A Brogden and Janet M Guthmiller.

  • Caillouette J.C. et al. Vaginal pH as marker for bacterial pathogens and menopausal status. Am J of Ob Gyne 1997; 176(6):1270-1275.

  • Vaginal Discharge by The Mickinley Health Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 2008. www.mckinley.uiuc.edu Accessed March 2009.

  • Menopause & Perimenopause by Marcy Holmes 2009. www.womentowomen.com Accessed March 2009.

  • MSN Ecyclopedia & Dictionary 2008. www.encarta.msn.com Accessed March 2009.