How to Use a Vaginal pH Test

Your gynecologist may already have tested your vaginal pH many times. This allows your doctor 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

Jo Zixuan Zhou / Verywell

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 doctor.

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 doctor 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 doctor, you can try one of the OTC medications for vaginal yeast infections. If this does not cure your vaginal symptoms or infection, see your doctor for the appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

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Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Vaginal pH. Updated September 27, 2018.

  2. Michigan Medicine. University of Michigan. Vaginal wet mount. Updated February 19, 2019. 

  3. Mania-Pramanik J, Kerkar S, Mehta P, Potdar S, Salvi V. Use of vaginal pH in diagnosis of infections and its association with reproductive manifestations. J. Clin. Lab. Anal. 2008;22(5):375-379. doi:10.1002/jcla.20273

  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Vaginitis

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