Certain vaginal symptoms like abnormal discharge, itching, or burning sensations may be due to bacterial vaginosis or some other vaginal infection.
One quick way to determine if you have a vaginal infection is to take a vaginal pH test at home. Many pharmacies and drug stores sell at-home vaginal pH testing kits if you do not want to go to the doctor to get tested.
What is a Vaginal pH Test?
The vagina requires the proper balance of acidity and alkalinity to remain healthy. Any imbalance in vaginal acidic and alkaline levels could increase the risk of a vaginal infection.
A vaginal pH test measures the levels of acidity and alkalinity in the vagina and then gives a reading between 1 and 14. The ideal range of a healthy vagina is anywhere from 3.8 to 4.5. If the reading is above 4.5, you likely have a vaginal infection or a high risk of getting one.
Seek treatment from a doctor if the reading is higher than 4.5. You may assume these test results indicate a yeast infection since the symptoms are similar to bacterial vaginosis, but that is not always true. A reading between 4.0 and 4.5 usually means a yeast infection is present, but anything higher than 4.5 is typically due to bacterial vaginosis.
Over-the-counter treatments are not effective if you have bacterial vaginosis. A doctor’s care is best in these circumstances because they can confirm whether it is bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection.
An at-home vaginal pH test cannot tell you which one you have. In fact, these tests don’t diagnose any particular sexually transmitted infection, such as syphilis, HIV, herpes, gonorrhea, or chlamydia. Instead, they are meant to measure your vaginal pH balance.
Therefore, if it is confirmed that you have bacterial vaginosis after receiving a professional medical examination, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics to eliminate it.
The Steps for Performing a Vaginal pH Test at Home
When you open the box of your over-the-counter vaginal pH test kit at home, it will contain pH test paper or strips and a specific color chart to indicate possible test results. Once you use the paper or strip as described below, you will compare the color on it to the corresponding color on the chart to determine your results.
Please note that some testing kits may give you a simple reading of “abnormal” or “normal” instead of a color. In this case, the results should be self-explanatory.
Here is how to use most at-home vaginal pH testing kits featuring the color coding test results:
1) Wash your hands with warm water and mild soap.
2) Carefully grab the handle of the paper or strip with your finger and thumb and take it out of the box. Try to avoid letting it touch anything.
3) Use your free hand to open your vaginal lips and gently insert the swap end of the paper or strip into the inner vaginal wall. Let the swab rest there for about five seconds.
4) Gently pull out the swab from the inner vaginal wall. Try to avoid letting the swab touch anything else.
5) Wait for the color on the swab to take form.
Color chart results between 3.8 and 4.5 indicate a healthy vagina with moderate acidic levels. A reading of under 3.8 means you have high acidic levels in your vagina. You don’t have to worry about vaginal infections with a highly acidic vagina, but you may develop low fertility because of it.
A reading of over 4.5 is what you have to worry about the most because it means your vaginal alkaline levels are high and acidic levels are low. This is the type of vaginal environment that increases the risk of infection.
Seek Vaginal pH Treatment
Seek treatment from your primary care physician when you see a reading of over 4.5 on your at-home vaginal pH test.