Few things are as frustrating for a couple as experiencing difficulty conceiving for an extended period of time. And in many cases, determining the cause of this delay is just as frustrating, as there are a wide range of factors that could be impacting your ability to start a family.
Some factors, such as diet or general health, are fairly obvious – but one important thing that women should consider is often overlooked. In some cases, optimal fertility can come down to whether or not you are providing your partner’s sperm with a comfortable environment – specifically, whether or not the pH levels of the fluids in your reproductive system are creating favorable conditions for fertilization.
How Do pH Levels Affect My Fertility?
The pH levels of the fluids in our bodies are an easily overlooked part of fertility. While the human body overall is able to tolerate fluctuations in pH levels, a major drop in these levels can create big problems for sperm. This is because sperm prefer an alkaline environment, as opposed to an acidic environment; in other words, higher pH levels are more ideal for sperm.
Remember, before sperm can successfully fertilize an egg, they must swim through the vagina and cervical canal before traveling into the fallopian tubes. This means that if the environment in the vagina and cervix is unfavorable for any ejaculated sperm, they may be unable to reach an egg to fertilize it – and as a result, a couple may have trouble getting pregnant.
Ideally, a woman’s vaginal pH will levels range from 3.8 – 4.5 for most of her cycle. Then during ovulation, luteinizing hormonal surges are meant to keep vaginal pH levels within the 7 to 14 range. These levels are considered to be within the alkaline range, and are non-toxic to sperm – meaning that these pH levels help them survive for up to 48 hours inside a woman’s reproductive system.
However, there are outside influences that can reduce the pH levels of our body and bodily fluids, sometimes to a point where natural hormonal surges alone can’t create the environment sperm need to survive. Unfortunately, lowered pH levels can weaken and even kill sperm, preventing them from reaching an ovulated egg and fertilizing it.
What Raises The pH Levels Of Bodily Fluids?
- Elevated or reduced hormone levels
- Use of certain prescription medications
- Exposure to environmental toxics
- Use of lubricants that are toxic to sperm
While each of these factors can impact pH levels, it’s believed that the #1 culprit of reduced pH levels is diet. Many of America’s favorite foods – such as burgers, pizza, sugary drinks, white sugar and flour, junk food and processed foods – are ranked as “acidic” foods, and are likely to lower the body’s pH levels overall. Unfortunately, this reduction can push our body’s overall pH levels into the “acidic” range. While this is not necessarily problematic for your body overall, this can have an effect on any sperm that come into contact with bodily fluids. Most noteworthy is that if your body pH is too low, your cervical mucus will also be more acidic than alkaline, and is likely to create an environment that sperm cannot survive in for long.
How Can I Find Out If My pH Levels Are Affecting My Fertility?
The only way to know for sure if pH levels are affecting your fertility is to test them. Fortunately, testing pH levels is extremely easy: there are kits sold over-the-counter that you can use in the privacy of your own home to determine vaginal pH. Local drug stores, and various websites, sell pH testing kits and vaginal pH strips, many of which cost $20 or less. (One noteworthy point is that it’s best to test this during or close to ovulation.)
If it turns out that your pH levels are on the low side of the scale, you should visit with a doctor to discuss your findings. Ideally, your doctor will take a full history and provide you with recommendations for adjustments in diet, exercise, or otherwise that are likely to address the source of your elevated pH levels. In most cases, doctors will recommend reducing the amount of sugar in your daily diet, and will advise patients to primarily eat alkaline foods instead, as these are thought to reduce acidity levels.
While “low pH levels” can sound like a serious issue, we encourage hopeful couples who have had trouble getting pregnant to take a deep breath when it comes to handling this matter. In many cases, simply making a dietary adjustment is all it takes to balance your pH levels. And if adjusting your diet isn’t enough, tools such as creams can alter the pH of the cervical mucus – and over-the-counter conception aids such as The Stork OTC can even help sperm bypass the journey through the vagina, limiting their exposure to it. All in all, this is one fertility issue that can often easily be managed!