Everything You Want to Know About Vaginal Discharge
There are a lot of taboos surrounding sex, periods, vaginal infections, and discharge. However, these are perfectly normal bodily functions that we should discuss openly.
In fact, we should work hard to break these taboos because we’re the ones that undergo these processes. Sadly some women know nothing about such topics because there are fewer discussions about them. As a result, you and I are left wondering what is normal and what should be immediately reported to our gynecologists.
Here are some facts about vaginal discharge that you should know.
1. Why does this even happen?
Vaginal discharge is any fluid that flows from your vagina except the period-related fluids. It includes cervical mucus or vaginal lubrication. Our vagina self-cleans itself and releases bacteria, extra cells such as cervical cells, and fluids as vaginal discharge. Your vaginal cleaning process varies from mine and on days of the month.
The cervical mucus that your body releases form the bulk of the discharge and are the byproduct of the menstrual cycle. It’s also released throughout the month, depending on your hormones and interactions with sperms. So getting everyday discharge doesn't mean you're unhealthy or unhygienic; it's normal.
2. Here’s what normal vaginal discharge looks like
Vaginal discharge varies over the day and month. But, healthy fluids should be white, creamy, clear, cloudy, watery, stretchy, or egg-whitey. Having a bloody or brown discharge before or after period spotting is also normal.
Further, the quantity of your discharge varies just like its consistency and color. However, there is no exact amount. Indeed your age, phase of your cycle, and age determine its quantity.
You need to know that:
- It’s normal not to have any discharge immediately after your periods.
- You will have a lot of slippery, wet, stretchy, eggy, or clear discharge when ovulating.
- Hormonal birth control pills tend to influence the amount of your discharge.
- Pregnancy increases the level of your vaginal discharge.
- Discharge quantity decreases during perimenopause and menopause due to reduced estrogen levels.
3. When to call your Gynecologist
Vaginal discharge changes from time to time because of your diet, personal care products, soaps, medications, sexual activity, birth control, menopause, and more. Changing any of these elements affects the vaginal microbiome, but this shouldn't be a cause for concern.
All the same, some changes indicate health issues like infections. Therefore, don’t ignore symptoms like:
- An odor accompanies a yellow or green discharge because it indicates an STI.
- A fishy or foul odor discharge is a symptom of bacterial infection like bacterial vaginosis or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
- Bloody or brown discharge can be a sign of endometrial or cervical cancer. But, it’s normal to have pre or post-period spotting.
- Excessive discharge with cottage cheese texture - thick, white, and clumpy - may indicate a yeast infection.
4. What your discharge can tell you about your health
A healthy vaginal discharge should be celebrated because it tells us more about our health. This includes:
- The wet, stretchy discharge tells us when we’re ovulating or most fertile.
- Vaginal discharge increases when we're pregnant. A fluid with a mild odor indicates earlier signs of pregnancy and increases in quantity as the pregnancy progress. The discharge becomes thicker, heavier, and pinker when we're close to going into labor.
- We get to know when we have an infection or STD because our vaginal discharge turns green, yellow, or smelly.
- It's time to drink plenty of water when our discharge becomes thicker and viscous.
- Increased vaginal dryness or discharge is an indication of higher stress hormones.
5. Here are a few tips for maintaining a happy, healthy discharge
Good vaginal hygiene means normal discharge. Indeed wiping front to back, peeing before and after penetrative sex, and changing sweaty clothes can keep our vagina healthy and happy. The following tips can support healthy discharge:
- Don’t douche
- Avoid scented soaps and fragrances
- Use a condom with every new partner
- Wear lightweight cotton underwear since they have a higher breathability
- Avoid rough or scented toilet paper
- Use lube for a happier vagina
- Opt for organic tampons
- Clean everything you put inside your vagina, i.e., penis, toys, or fingers