How to Use a Vaginal pH Test

Your gynecologist may already have tested your vaginal pH many times. This allows your healthcare provider to determine the acidity or alkalinity of your vaginal secretions. Why is this information important for them to know, and why should you learn it, too?

How to Perform a Vaginal pH Swab

Verywell / Jo Zixuan Zhou

The Goals of Testing

You may want to test your vaginal pH if you are experiencing unusual vaginal symptoms, such as itching, burning, a foul vaginal odor, or abnormal vaginal discharge.

This can help you decide whether or not you might need medical treatment. However, you should understand that an at-home test will not help diagnose HIV, chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, or group B streptococcus.

Frequently, when women experience unusual vaginal symptoms, the first thing that comes to mind is vaginal yeast infections. If you experience vaginal symptoms that you think might indicate a vaginal yeast infection, this test can help you rule out other types of infections.

Before you treat yourself using over-the-counter (OTC) medications, you may be well served to confirm the diagnosis with your healthcare provider.

Test Instructions

A home vaginal pH test kit generally includes a piece of pH test paper and a color chart for determining your vaginal pH results. The test is performed by placing a test paper against the wall of your vagina and comparing the color change against a reference chart.

How to Perform a Vaginal pH Swab

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Remove the pH swab from the package by its handle. Do not allow the pH paper to come into contact with anything.
  3. Hold the swab handle between your thumb and forefinger so that the test strip is facing your thumb.
  4. Spread your labia with your free hand.
  5. Insert the swab into your vagina, tilting it so that the paper comes fully in contact with the vaginal wall.
  6. Hold for 5 seconds.
  7. Remove the swab, being careful not to touch the paper.

Interpreting the Results

If your test comes with a color reference chart, compare the color of the strip to obtain the pH value. Other tests will only read "normal" (white) or "abnormal" (blue/green).

For color reference kits, vaginal acidity/alkalinity is measured on a scale of 1 to 14. Normal vaginal pH is 3.8 to 4.5 (slightly acidic). Abnormal values are those that higher or lower than this range. Higher ranges are more alkaline; lower ranges are more acidic.

Abnormal vaginal pH frequently indicates the presence of a vaginal infection. However, you should know that not all vaginal infections cause changes to vaginal pH. This means that having a normal vaginal pH test does not necessarily mean that you do not have a vaginal infection.

If your vaginal pH is above normal, the most likely reason is that you have bacterial vaginosis (BV) and not a yeast infection. In this case, don't use OTC medications for vaginal yeast infections, because the medication will not treat your BV. Instead, you'll need to see your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment.

On the other hand, if your vaginal pH is normal or below normal and you've had previous vaginal yeast infections diagnosed by a healthcare provider, you can try one of the OTC medications for vaginal yeast infections. If this does not cure your vaginal symptoms or infection, see your healthcare provider for the appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a vaginal pH test?

    A vaginal pH test is a simple way to measure how acidic or alkaline your vaginal secretions are. Elevated pH levels may signal a vaginal infection.

  • How does a vaginal pH test work?

    A vaginal pH test involves a paper test strip that, when swabbed over the vagina, changes color. The test strip is then compared to a color reference chart that measures vaginal pH on a scale of 1 to 14. Normal vaginal pH is between 3.8 and 4.5. Anything below 3.8 or above 4.5 are considered abnormal.

  • When should I use a vaginal pH test?

    You should use a vaginal pH test if there are symptoms of a vaginal infection, such as itching, burning, unpleasant odor, or unusual discharge.

  • What does a vaginal pH test diagnose?

    A vaginal pH test only measures vaginal acidity. It can not definitively diagnose any medical condition, although an elevated pH (over 4.5) may suggest bacterial vaginosis (BV), particularly when accompanied by symptoms.

  • Does a normal vaginal pH mean that I don't have an infection?

    No. You can have a vaginal infection and still have a normal pH. This is especially true if you have a yeast infection. If you have symptoms of a vaginal infection of any sort, see a healthcare provider no matter what the test says.

  • Do home vaginal pH tests differ from those used by healthcare providers?

    They are practically identical. With that said, a healthcare provider can perform other exams and tests to diagnose and treat any infection (including sexually transmitted infections) more definitively.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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