Did You Know You Can Test The pH Balance Of Your Vagina In Your Very Own Home?

I’m going to be honest with you: this post is happening because no one responded to my query on Twitter.

As an extremely anxious person who constantly thinks I might have a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis (spoiler: I almost never actually have a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis, my gynecologist is usually highly confused why I’ve brought my healthy vagina in to see her) imagine my joy, surprise, alarm, and dismay when I learned that there are strips that you can use to test your vaginal pH in your very own home?!?! Joy, that such a product exists, surprise, that no one ever told my anxious ass about them, alarm, that I have wasted so much money on co-pays at the gynecologist when I could have been dealing with my mostly-hypochondriac issues at home, dismay, that the online reviews for this product are so mixed. It was a roller coaster of emotion, I’ll tell you what.

Incase you’re not quite as intimately familiar as I am with the literature surrounding yeast and BV on the internet, one of the ways you can tell if you have BV (rather than a yeast infection) is if the pH in your vagina is off. This isn’t fool proof, obviously, and everything you read will tell you if you’re not certain what’s going on you should go to your doctor, but, who has the time or money to go visit the doctor every time you’re just a tiny bit anxious that something might be off with your vagina?!?!?! Wouldn’t it be cool if you could, at the very least, check your pH so you could then make an informed decision about what to probably panic about? (Is this not in fact how everyone lives?)

You might be expecting me to review different brands of vaginal pH strips now, or to share with you my findings about which one is best, but nope, I won’t be doing any of that because I personally have never tried these babies. I want to hear from people who have! Were they accurate? Did you like them? Did knowing the pH of your vagina help calm your anxieties and moisturize your skin and condition your hair and revive your crops and save your whole goddamn life? Just wondering.

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PS: Also open to discussing home cures for yeast infections and BV! We’ve discussed that quite a bit over the years here at Autostraddle, but it’s 2020 – I’m down for some updated info.

Vanessa is a queer feminist writer and photographer currently based in New York. She really misses Portland. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 330 articles for us.

25 Comments

  1. I have in fact bought these and they are in fact accurate! The ones I have are called “Health Mate Vaginal pH”, and unlike plain pH test papers, they’re sturdy enough that you can just stick em in and waggle them around to get enough on them for a reading, AND they have a handy colour chart on the side of the bottle to show you what a normal vs abnormal reading looks like for a vagina. Then whenever I’ve been a little on the high side, I just pop a boric acid capsule in there once a day for three days or so and boom, all good.

    • The ones I bought are sturdier (the stick is more like plastic than paper) so they inserted easily, and as I mentioned above I liked having the colour comparison chart on the bottle that showed me what “abnormal” would be in the case of vaginal pH. But if you’re familiar enough with pH testing I’m sure you could make regular litmus paper work too!

  2. Hello I feel strongly about this! I’m also always like …hmm what is going ON in there? And I think that you don’t need to waste money on fancy testing kits. You can just buy strips of regular pH testing paper. The kind you used to use in Chemistry class!

  3. Hi I also have strong feelings about this subject, particularly re: yeast infections. I suffered chronic yeast infections for years during college (it WAS as awful as it sounds!), and it would have been SO helpful to know then that I could have tested my pH at home without having to waste tons of money and time to have doctors repeatedly tell me what I already knew. That phase of my life is thankfully over, so I haven’t felt compelled to buy any pH kits yet, but I 100% would if I knew which one to buy. Like someone said above, I also rely on boric acid suppositories, which a doctor suggested to me years ago. If I ever feel a little bit off, I just insert one before bed and repeat as needed until things feel normal again, and that has worked for me in situations from mild discomfort/paranoia to severe yeast infections ^^. I have tried every single remedy I could get my hands on, from garlic to OTC treatments to prescriptions, and boric acid is the only thing that has ever worked for me.

  4. These are so helpful! You can use the chem class pH paper, but vaginal pH is such a narrow range that it does help to be able to distinguish colors. Just a warning that if you run on the edge of the range, you may have trouble distinguishing whether you have BV. It’s not an “all or none/yes or no,” but a “are you having symptoms AND out of range?” question. I trip every test at the gyno as “possibly BV” but only treat when I have symptoms because it’s extremely obvious symptom-wise but not pH wise. You can overtreat and create new problems if you get really zealous and paranoid that you dont have any symptoms but your pH is a little too light green.

    Home remedies: Flagyl, the antibiotic treatment, is a beast. It left me feeling terrible every time I took it, and the “dont take with alcohol” warning is very real as you can give yourself liver poisoning extremely quickly, even if you are healthy, based on your genetic makeup (in other words, you dont know you are susceptible till you have a drink and your liver shots down). I hated it. A friend’s gyno recommended boric acid. I got a bottle od pure powder from Amazon (source it someone else, as they are now selling poorly compounded drugs from other countries, so not a good source). Put it in a vegetable capsule (got a jar of 250 or so), and if you want to reduce the irritation you can add in coconut oil. Shove one up your vagina (suppository-style), and the capsule melts slowly. It’s fine if the capsule isn’t totally full. Do it 3 days in a row, max 600 mg. Then take a break bc it does cause irritation to epithelial cells. If that doesn’t wipe it, I wait 3 days and do it again. I almost never have to do it twice. You’ll feel a little paranoid about whether it’s gone. So wait and make sure you are not showing symptoms. That bottle has lasted me forever. It does lose potency after expiration, but I havent tossed it yet. Nursing school tells me that’s a dumb decision, but my body says it still works. You can also slide a capsule in once a week or so as a preventative. But dont go overboard, and watch for itchiness/redness signaling irritation. Saved me so many gyno visits, so much money, so many flagyl side effects.

    In case this is too vague, symptoms are: a large amount of thin, watery discharge, a distinctively weird, fishy smell, and the smell is so strong that when you have clothes on you may be able to smell it. If you have NEVER had this before, do NOT self diagnose, see a physician. It could be something else, or you could be fine and think its BV. Once you’ve had recurrent ones you’ll be able to pick the smell and discharge out easily. Also preventative: cotton underwear (not satin), change after the swimming pool, dont leave your gym clothes on. Do not leave your vagina in a moist, wet environment like sweaty underwear. Cotton absorbs moisture. Pee after sex, use condoms on your toys, and throw them away after use. Vagina-to-vagina can transmit BV, and toys transmit BV. Wash your toys with soap and water.

  5. Okay… I moved to the UK 8 years ago now, so I’ve spent my entire adult life in a country with socialised healthcare. When I talk to my friends back home about how they don’t want to go to the doctor because they haven’t met their deductible, or a walk in centre will cost $300 for their UTI or BV test I’m like WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL IS HAPPENING BACK HOME. All health care is free here, but sexual health is extra easy! The clinic near my apartment offers all services from STI testing to cancer screening to yeast infections and BV tests and general vaginal health. It even has special drop-in clinic hours dedicated to LGBT+ people if you don’t feel comfortable attending a regular clinic.
    And I don’t know what the market for vaginal products is like in America but here in the UK you can go to a pharmacy and get over the counter treatment called Canesten without a doctor or prescription. It comes in a clotrimazole cream or a fluconazole oral capsule or a combination of cream and pill or cream and internal pessary. Sometimes you have to ask the pharmacist for the oral pill, but all they really do is ask how bad your symptoms are and then recommend the best combination of treatment and still don’t need a prescription. You can even buy it all online if you don’t feel comfortable going to a pharmacy. And yes, the Canesten brand makes a self-test kit that tests for yeast, BV and trichomoniasis. However, the control color for yeast and ‘normal’ is the same, which does make it kind of ridiculous if you only wanted to test for yeast and won’t put your mind at ease (but then honestly you can just buy some cream and self-treat for a week and see if that works!). And some women have complained of false negatives. Ultimately the answer is still ‘go to the doctor’ if you are really unsure of your symptoms, so I’m completely mind boggled by a system that makes it harder to check up on vaginal health when yeast infections and BV are so common and so easy to treat.
    …that’s the end of my rant, happy Friday!

  6. Strips? I’ve found ph sticks things with like a lil spoon on one end.

    My mom is a virgo stereotype but she also believes in some folk and alt medicine to an extent. She’d never try to “cure” something but she’ll use things to help it along.
    For yeast infections it’s acidophilus from the vitamin store.
    One time it wasn’t capsules but some foul smelling acidophilus drink because she had surgery and well

    **body horror about to be mentioned**

    ———————

    *last chance to avert your eyes*

    The antibiotics were so strong they gave her tongue a yeast infection

    • Thrush. That’s common-ish when taking a long course of antibiotics, from what I understand. I had it after I was on cipro and metronidazole for two weeks, after my appendix self-destructed and tried to take my other organs with it. I treated it by gargling apple cider vinegar for a few days.

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