Let's Talk about Vaginal Discharge

Some Discharge is a Sign of a Healthy Vagina

Woman sitting on a toilet seat
Karin Smeds/Folio Images/Getty Images

Do you know the difference between normal vaginal discharge and abnormal vaginal discharge? Did you know that having a vaginal discharge is normal?

Let’s take a look at the various types of vaginal discharge so that you’ll know when yours is abnormal.

The Natural Vagina

The basic function of your vagina is to provide a route from the outside of your vagina to your uterus and the rest of your internal reproductive system.

The natural, acidic, pH of your vagina acts to prevent infections and is caused by natural, good, bacteria produced by your body. On a "normal" day your vagina keeps itself clean and in a healthy state by producing secretions known as normal vaginal discharge. The natural balance of the vagina can be disrupted by anything that interferes with its normal environment.

Normal Discharge

First, it’s important to understand that all women experience some amount of vaginal discharge. Glands in your vagina and cervix produce small amounts of fluid that flows out of your body every day, taking with it old cells.

Your normal vaginal discharge helps to clean the vagina, as well as keep it lubricated and free from infection and other germs. It does not have a foul smell and typically has no odor at all. Normal vaginal discharge often appears clear or milky when it dries on your panties. Occasionally, you may notice a discharge that is thin and stringy looking.

Things that can upset the natural pH balance of your vagina and lead to vaginal infections include:

Your Period Affects Vaginal Discharge

Your menstrual cycle has a significant effect on the type of vaginal discharge you experience throughout the month.

Did you know you’re more likely to experience vaginal infections just before or during your period? This is because the pH balance of your vagina varies during your monthly cycle, causing the acidic level of your to be at its lowest point a few days before and during your period. About halfway between your periods, an increase in vaginal discharge that appears clear is normal. This increased wetness and clear vaginal discharge indicates ovulation and is the time of the month when you are fertile and can get pregnant.

Signs of Abnormal Discharge

It's important to recognize the signs of abnormal vaginal discharge because it could be a sign of infection or other health condition.

Some signs that may indicate an abnormal vaginal discharge and infection include:

  • Changes in color, consistency (sometimes similar to cottage cheese), or amount
  • Itching, discomfort, or a rash
  • Vaginal burning during urination
  • The presence of blood when it’s not time for your period
  • A foul odor accompanied by yellowish, greenish, or grayish white vaginal discharge

If you have a vaginal discharge along with any of the aforementioned signs, consult your health care provider for diagnosis and treatment.

Common Vaginal Infections

It's not uncommon for women to get a vaginal infection and the most common vaginal infection is bacterial vaginosis.

Vaginal yeast infections are also very common and over-the-counter treatments are available. However, it’s important to never self-diagnose a vaginal yeast infection unless you have previously been diagnosed by your health care provider.

Continue Reading