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Q: Is my regular swimming bad for my vaginal pH?

by Dr. Barb DePree MD

3 years ago

You ask whether there’s effect on your pH level from swimming several times a week in a chlorinated pool and whether inserting a tampon would provide some protection. The vagina is, in its natural state, not an open space but collapsed, that is, the walls are lying next to each other. Imagine a balloon before it is blown up. We refer to the vagina as a “potential space,” because space is made there only when neededfor a tampon, childbirth, or sex.

The vaginal pH isn’t disrupted with a relatively brief swim or tub bath. Inserting a tampon actually would be more likely to act as a wick, introducing more chlorinated water because of its absorbency.

Chlorinated water certainly can affect the vulva and surrounding skin; I do hear that from a number of patients. In that case, be sure to rinse thoroughly after swimming, and then apply a product like Lubrigyn Lotion (available in wipes, which you can put in your bag to take to the pool) to soothe by moisturizing. 


  • Generally the water from pools isn’t going to impact vaginal health as much as vulvar health. The vagina is what we call a ‘potential space’, in that it is collapsed in its natural state so water shouldn’t be getting ‘inside’ the vagina. 30% of women have Group B strep (GBS) as a normal inhabitant of the vagina, it is not a pathogen, and shouldn’t be treated as such. You can take antibiotics to eliminate but that bacteria will re-colonize. It’s likely you have always had GBS in your vagina. The only time we treat this is if you enter into labor, this can be adverse to newborns so we try to minimize exposure by using antibiotics in labor, but otherwise we don’t need to treat GBS. The vulva may be sensitive to certain pool exposure, but salt water tends to be the best option for women, their skin generally tolerates this quite well.

    Dr Barb on

  • How does a salt water pool affect vaginal pH. Since starting water classes I’ve had problems with overgrowth of vaginal group b strep and advised boric acid suppository regime after course of amoxicillin failed to eradicate. I’m post menopausal, off HRT. Thank you

    Cynthia on

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