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Are Baths Bad for Vaginal Health?

Clean Vaginal Health

I am obsessed with taking baths and have been for my entire life. Taking a bath before bed is how I wind down at the end of a hectic — and sometimes very stressful — day and is my secret trick for getting the best night’s sleep. But, even though baths are known for their ability to improve sleep, boost mental health, support circulation, and bolster immunity, I recently learned that they can also wreak havoc on vaginal health due to their impact on pH levels. 

Baths and pH Balance 

When it comes to baths and pH balance, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that Dr. Angela Wilson, an OBGYN at Montefiore Advanced Care, says soaking in hot water alone should not cause changes in vaginal pH levels. However, that can change based on the type of water in your area. “The minerals in hard water tend to cause a higher pH level of the water, which could disrupt the naturally acidic environment of the vagina,” Dr. Wilson explains. 

If you live in a city with hard water — such as my hometown of Los Angeles — Dr. Wilson says adding a filter to your bathtub can reduce the minerals and, therefore, decrease the pH of the water. But, while it is something worth considering if you experience regular infections, she says filters have not specifically been a proven way to prevent vaginal pH imbalance. 

Hard water isn’t the only thing to think about when drawing yourself a bath. Dr. Wilson says that the products we add to our baths can also wreak havoc on our vaginal health. “Many soaps, oils, and bath bombs have higher pH levels, and if introduced into the vagina while soaking in the bath, it can cause an alteration and increase in vaginal pH,” she explains. This doesn’t mean that you have to give up your relaxing soaks altogether. “Mild soaps and products without perfume or dyes are best,” says Dr. Wilson. Though, she recommends avoiding soap inside the vagina and always rinsing off well to remove any residual soap after soaking. 

Clean Vaginal Health
Are Baths Bad for Vaginal Health? 3

Do Baths Contribute to Yeast Infections?

In general, vaginal pH levels range from 3.8 to 4.2 and can change based on several factors, including the phases of your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, age, and more. While it is normal to experience a slight shift, vaginal pH imbalance can lead to health concerns, including yeast infections. So, it’s important to take precautions, like filtering water and choosing milder products. 

With that said, it’s not just about addressing these common pH disruptors. Dr. Wilson says that too many baths, in general, can also be of concern for some. “Too many baths, or baths for prolonged periods of time, can make one more susceptible to yeast infections in some by exacerbating the warm, moist environment of the vagina,” she explains.  

Can Too Many Baths Cause BV?

In some cases, taking lots of baths can lead to Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), aka a vaginal infection caused by bacteria overgrowth in the vagina. You can get BV from a vaginal pH imbalance caused by bath products, but you can also get it from water alone. “Hard water — which is high in minerals such as calcium and magnesium — can react with the acids in soaps and form chemicals that can leave a residue on your skin,” says Dr. Wilson. “This residue can settle inside the vagina when soaking in a bath, causing a bacterial imbalance.” 

Yeast infections and BV are two different types of vaginitis (yeast infections are fungal-based, and BV is bacteria-based), but they can coexist and be caused by similar things. Not unlike yeast infections, soaking in warm water for prolonged periods of time can increase the warm, moist vagina environment and lead to BV.

Supplements for Vaginal Health 

Taking care of your vaginal health might mean editing your bath regimen to include products that don’t disrupt vagina pH as easily — and perhaps even soaking less often. But you can also prop up your vaginal health through supplements such as HUM Nutrition’s Private Party, which was designed specifically with the vaginal microbiome in mind. Formulated with probiotics and cranberry, these capsules improve overall vaginal health by balancing good bacteria, improving odor, and supporting the urinary tract. 

To up the ante, we also recommend giving HUM Nutrition’s Hormone Balance a try since hormone imbalances can also change your vagina’s pH levels. Lower estrogen levels are a particular concern as they can alter the microbiome and even result in BV. These hormone-balancing supplements are formulated with dong quai root to promote steady estrogen levels.  

Key Takeaways FOR Clean Vaginal Health

Taking baths is a great way to relax the body and mind. Baths can even help reduce stress, improve sleep, promote circulation, and relieve pain. But, as much as they can be helpful tools for our health, baths also have some negative side effects on vaginal health. Products such as salts, soaps (including bubble bath formulas), essential oils, and bath bombs can negatively impact vaginal pH levels, which can result in concerns like yeast infections and BV. The minerals in hard water can also alter vaginal pH, so adding a filter to your faucet or home water system is also a good idea. 

With that said, Dr. Wilson says you don’t have to swear off baths altogether. “When it comes to vaginal health, plain warm water is the safest option and can be a good choice when trying to soothe vulvar and vaginal symptoms,” she explains. If you do go for a dip in the tub, just be sure to rinse off afterward to wash away any soap residue that can come in contact with the vagina. 

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