How (Some) Men Can Screw You And Your PH Balance At The Same Time
Women's Health

How (Some) Men Can Screw You And Your PH Balance At The Same Time

We (the collective) get a lot of shit about how women ought to smell "down there." Hell, some of it comes from within — the idea that we’re supposed to smell like buttercups and roses. When in reality, pussy has a smell and it’s not "sweet." But we’re not here to talk about this — not quite, that is. We’re here to discuss the causes of abnormal smells that may be a bit pungent to ourselves or even others. Leave it to Nick Cannon to spark the dialogue here after he made comments on Lip Service, a podcast hosted by Angela Yee, about whether or not women know when they’re “stinkin’ up the room” or nah.

In the episode, he claimed his observations led him to believe approximately 80% of women need assistance when it comes to their hygiene. Specifically, he said, "80% of women probably need assistance when it comes to female hygiene," before adding, "There’s this magnificent 20% that have no smell." And at the very end of the clip, you hear Angela point out that he may be giving women bacterial vaginosis.

Being as unbiased as I can be, this felt like a real lightbulb moment and not at all a dig at Nick’s lifestyle choices. No, I’m not judging him for having multiple babies and multiple partners, but both of these truths do point to the fact that he’s having unprotected sex with these women (see below).

Outside of potentially contracting sexually transmitted diseases — what does this mean for the women he’s dealing with? What does this mean for anyone in a noncommittal partnership where one or both partners are having unprotected sex with other people? Can yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis, in fact, be passed via penile-vaginal sex?

Well, we hit Dr. Kerry-Anne Perkins, a board-certified OB-GYN with some of these questions and a few more. And while you may have guessed, the short answer is: yes!

Understanding the pH Scale & What Can Throw Off Your Vaginal pH Balance

Dr. Perkins first discusses the importance of understanding the pH scale in order to know the natural flora of the vagina and why some women may experience infections or disruptions to their vaginal pH. A measurement of how acidic or basic a substance is, the pH scale has a range of 0 to 14. On the scale, 0 is the most acidic, 14 is the most basic, and 7 is neutral, Dr. Perkins notes.

When it comes to the vagina, the normal range of the vaginal pH is 3.8 to 4.5. "This is a moderately acidic state and vaginas are very happy and balanced in this pH range," Dr. Perkins explains. "There are many acid-producing bacteria that live in the vagina. These bacteria maintain chemical balance, protect against germs, and kill harmful bacteria and fungi that may be in the vagina."

Menstrual cycles, douching, lubricants, and medications (antibiotics) are some of the ways that the vagina can develop an unbalanced pH. Due to the natural biological differences in the bodily fluids of men and women, men can also cause pH imbalances in the vagina. While vaginal fluid is acidic, on the pH scale, semen is basic with a pH range of 7.2 to 7.8.

"The higher the male semen pH, the less acidic a vagina becomes when mixed with the seminal fluid. When semen is released into the vagina, the pH level of the vagina automatically becomes less acidic as it becomes neutralized by semen. The greater the pH level of the male, the greater the possible vaginal pH disruption a woman may experience.”

Symptoms of a Vaginal pH Disruption or Imbalance

If and when this disruption occurs, it puts women at greater risk of contracting vaginitis or other vaginal infections. The most common being “bacterial vaginosis (BV) and trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted infection (STI). [However] yeast infections, or candidiasis, a type of fungal infection that may also occur,” according to our expert.

Symptoms of vaginal pH imbalance may appear as the following:

  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Redness or Inflammation
  • Strong, fish-like odor
  • Change in discharge color or texture
  • Burning with urination

Condoms come highly recommended as a good way to minimize or prevent the risk of a vaginal pH imbalance as well as the risk of transmitting an STI. Dr. Perkins adds, “Secondly, avoid douching and wearing tight clothing. Douching may disrupt your vaginal pH and increase the risk of vaginitis. Tight clothing makes it difficult for the vagina to breathe. Thirdly, wear cotton underwear. Going commando is also a great alternative. Lastly, eat a diet that is without a lot of sugary and processed foods.”

I think this concludes my detective work on the case of Nick Cannon’s theory of women needing better hygienic practices, and without bashing him what I’ll say is that it’s important that we’re looking inwards and using the process of elimination. I often ask myself, “If everyone else seems to be the problem, could it perhaps be me?”

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Featured image by PixelsEffect/Getty Images




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