Vaginal Discharge 101
If you’ve got a vagina, you’ve likely played the “pee, blood, or discharge” game. There’s so much stigma around the fluids that come out of a vagina that there’s a whole industry built around convincing people that they’re dirty if it doesn’t smell like roses down there. We’re here to tell you that your discharge is likely 100% normal.
What Even Is Vaginal Discharge?
A clear, white, or off-white fluid secreted from your vagina is called vaginal discharge. Vaginal discharge, which is mostly made up of cells and bacteria, is produced by your uterus, cervix, and vagina. It aids in lubricating and cleaning your vagina as well as preventing infection and harmful germs. Vaginal discharge is a typical and natural process, but some changes to your discharge might indicate an infection or illness.
There are different levels of vaginal discharge — you may produce very little or a LOT. It’s all about your normal. A change in your vaginal discharge’s color, texture, smell, or quantity might indicate an issue.
Is My Vaginal Discharge Normal?
Thanks to estrogen, the skin cells of the vagina and cervix produce vaginal discharge. Due to decreasing estrogen levels, menopausal people typically experience less vaginal discharge.
Premenopausal people often have a daily vaginal discharge that is between 0.5 and 1 teaspoon (2 to 5 mL) in volume, white or transparent, thick, mucus-like, and largely odorless. The quantity and regularity of the discharge, however, vary from person to person. Throughout the course of the menstrual cycle, the quantity might also change.
During pregnancy, when using birth control pills, patches, or vaginal rings, close to ovulation, and the week leading up to your period, it may become the amount of discharge can increase.
Discharge contains bacteria, mucus, and fluid generated by the vagina and cervix, as well as vaginal skin cells. Normal discharge frequently has a faint odor and might cause the vulva to become somewhat irritated. This discharge lubricates the vaginal tissues and serves to protect the urine and vaginal tracts from infections.
Vaginal discharge should typically be white or transparent. It shouldn’t smell unpleasant, and its thickness may vary from period to period. The following are other aspects of vaginal discharge:
Texture: Vaginal discharge can range in consistency from watery and sticky to gooey, thick, and pasty. This shift is brought on by hormones in your body, but other elements, such as an infection, can also affect the nature of your vaginal discharge. If your vaginal discharge is chunky, frothy, or comes with itchiness and color changes, you may have an infection.
Color: Vaginal discharge that is clear, milky white, or off-white is considered healthy. Discharge that is dark yellow, brown, green, or gray might point to an infection or another problem.
Smell: Vaginal discharge may have a smell, but it shouldn’t be overpowering or unpleasant. You may have a vaginal infection if your discharge has a fishy or unpleasant smell and changes in texture or color.
Volume: How much vaginal discharge you experience might vary depending on a number of circumstances, including ovulation, pregnancy, and the use of birth control. Changes in your vaginal discharge that occur suddenly may indicate a problem.
Get in touch with your doctor if you see:
- An increase in vaginal discharge volume (beyond your normal cyclical variations)
- A shift in the discharge’s hue
- An unpleasant odor
- A change in the discharge’s consistency or texture
- Discomfort, itchiness, or soreness in or near your vagina
What Does the Color of a Person’s Discharge Mean?
Your vaginal discharge’s color may indicate:
- Yellow, gray, or green discharge might indicate a bacterial infection or an STI.
- Brown or red: Discharge that is brown or crimson is typically indicative of an irregular period or pregnancy (implantation bleeding). If your discharge is brown or red-tinged but you are not on your period, there may be an issue.
- Clear, white, or off-white vaginal discharge is the norm. It might be a yeast infection if your discharge is white but looks thicker than normal or itches.
If the color or texture of your vaginal discharge changes, or if it is accompanied by other symptoms like an unpleasant smell, itching, or burning, get in touch with your healthcare professional.
Causes of Unusual Vaginal Discharge:
The following are the most typical causes of vaginal discharge:
- An infection in the vagina (eg: a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis).
- The body’s response to a foreign body or substance (such a condom or tampon)
- Vaginal dryness, especially during sex, as well as a watery vaginal discharge or other symptoms may be brought on by changes that take place after menopause.
The Bottom Line
Vaginal discharge is a normal and healthy bodily function that helps to keep the vaginal area clean and free of infection. However, it is important to be aware of any changes in the color, consistency, or odor of your discharge, as these can be signs of an infection or other conditions.
It’s also important to understand that discharge can vary depending on the menstrual cycle. During ovulation, for example, the discharge may become thicker and clearer, while during menstruation, it may appear thicker and red or brown in color.
Help keep your vagina and vulva healthy by washing your outer labia with lukewarm water and only ever mild unscented soap, avoiding harsh chemicals and perfumes (looking at you Bath And Body Works), and using breathable underwear to help reduce the risk of infection. Gotta let that thang breathe!
If you notice any unusual symptoms or changes in your discharge, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider to rule out any underlying issues. With the right care and attention, you can keep your vaginal area healthy and comfortable.
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