What is Vaginal Discharge?
Vaginal discharge comes from glands inside your vagina and cervix. These glands produce small amounts of fluid also known as vaginal secretions. The fluid flows out of the vagina each day, cleansing old cells that have lined the vagina. This is a completely natural process—it’s your body’s way of keeping your vagina healthy and clean.
Discharge varies from woman to woman. Some women have discharge every day, while others experience it less frequently. Normal vaginal discharge is usually clear or milky and may have a subtle scent that is not unpleasant or foul smelling. It’s also important to know that vaginal discharge changes over the course of a woman’s menstrual cycle. These changes in color and thickness are associated with ovulation and are natural. But outside of normal changes associated with your cycle, other changes may not be normal. Your discharge may indicate an imbalance of healthy bacteria in your vagina, which can be a sign that all is not well.
Recognizing Normal and Abnormal Discharge
Vaginal discharge volume
Most people will notice their discharge increases throughout the first phase of their cycle, with the most discharge being produced in the days before and including ovulation. Fluid volume then decreases in the day or two after ovulation, which normally lasts until the end of the cycle. You’ll probably also notice your vagina produces more fluid when you’re aroused.
Vaginal discharge smell
Normal discharge can be odorless or have a smell, but it’s usually mild and not unpleasant. It might mix with some urine, or blood around the time of menstruation, which can influence how it smells on your underwear. Getting to know your typical smell is most important for identifying when something changes.
Vaginal discharge color, consistency and meaning
Your discharge will change along with your body’s production of cervical fluid. At the beginning of the cycle, it tends to be more dry/sticky, or you may notice no discharge at all. It becomes creamy and whitish in the mid-to-late follicular phase (the first phase of your cycle). Just before and around ovulation, it’s likely to become similar to stretchy, wet, transparent egg white. Shortly after ovulation it usually changes back to dry/sticky. Fluid can look white or slightly yellowish and paste-like on your underwear when it dries.
Thick, White Discharge
If thick, white discharge goes along with other symptoms, such as itching, burning and irritation, it is probably due to a yeast infection. If not, it is normal discharge. You may also notice an increase in thick, white discharge before and after your period.
Yellow discharge is abnormal discharge, as this is a sign of a bacterial infection or sexually transmitted infection. There also may be an odor associated with it.
Brown discharge may be caused by irregular period cycles. If brown discharge keeps appearing, a patient should schedule an appointment with a provider to be evaluated. This could be a sign of uterine or cervical cancer. Additionally, during menopause, a woman should not have any type of vaginal bleeding, which is also a sign of uterine cancer.
Having green discharge is not normal. This is a sign of bacterial infection or a sexually transmitted infection, such as trichomoniasis. Anyone experiencing green discharge should see her provider.
Yeast Infection Discharge
Yeast infection discharge is caused by an overgrowth of fungus in the vagina. Symptoms of yeast infection discharge include a thick, white, cottage cheese-like discharge, along with itching, redness, irritation and burning.
Factors that may disrupt the vaginal ecosystem include:
- Douching and cleansing practices
- Sexual activity, having a new sexual partner
- Hormonal birth control or IUDs
- Prolonged or irregular bleeding or spotting
- Use of antibiotics or steroids
- Menarche, menopause, or pregnancy
- Hormonal changes through the Menstrual cycle
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Generally having less vaginal Lactobacillus bacteria
- Vaginal discharge is normal, and will vary throughout your menstrual cycle
- Vaginal discharge is one way of telling what phase of your menstrual cycle you’re in
- Abnormal vaginal discharge differs in color, consistency, smell or quantity compared to your usual discharge
- Abnormal vaginal discharge may be a symptom of a bacterial imbalance, an infection or an STI, or in rare cases, cervical cancer
To keep your vagina healthy, avoid douching and use protection during sexual activity
- To keep your ph balanced use Empress Organics Plant Based Feminine Wash