Is vaginal discharge normal? The short answer is yes. Most women have some kind of discharge every day.
Vaginal discharge is the mucus made by glands inside the vagina and cervix that helps to keep the vagina clean by carrying away dead cells and bacteria. The vagina is a sensitive dynamic ecosystem with a specific blend of bacteria, moisture, and pH level. Normal discharge is clear or white, slippery and thin, and a bit like an egg white. It might get thicker during ovulation, and browner near your period.
The real question is what kind of vaginal discharge is normal for you? To answer this question you have to know your own body. Get used to looking in your knickers. Notice how the colour or thickness of your discharge changes throughout the month and how it varies. It’s normal for discharge to vary in appearance, volume and consistency throughout your cycle, and it can be affected by clothing, stress, and arousal. If you’re taking birth control that contains oestrogen and inhibits ovulation, you might not see much change in your discharge throughout the month.
We can get hung up on what’s normal and compare ourselves to others, but the most important thing is learning how much is normal for you. You can only know what’s abnormal once you’ve begun to understand what’s normal.
Abnormal discharge can happen when the vagina’s microbal community gets out of balance, with an increase in the bad microbes and a decrease in the good microbes. It might be time to seek out medical advice if your discharge changes in colour, smell or texture, you produce more than usual, you feel pain when peeing or in your pelvic area, and if things get itchy or sore down there.
A grey discharge with a fishy or foul smell might be a sign of bacterial vaginosis. A cottage cheese like consistency, with a yellow colour, is often an indication of a yeast infection. Both of these can usually be treated by over the counter remedies, and aren’t too much to worry about, although should be treated early.
If you see unusual discharge and have pain or bleeding, it could be that you have chlamydia. These symptoms with a greenish discharge may indicate gonorrhoea, and trichomoniasis is characterised by sore, swollen or itchy vulva, pain urinating, and frothy yellow or green discharge. If you think you might have an STI, take an STI test or go for a check-up by a healthcare professional, who can prescribe the right treatment and support.
So how do you check your discharge? The easiest way is to look at your knickers, and see what is left on them. You can also wipe the opening of your vagina before you pee with white toilet paper to see what mucus comes out. If you prefer, put clean fingers into your vagina, and check the texture and colour of the fluid. Do this on a regular basis so that you know what’s normal for you, and can be aware of any changes.
Some people say that certain foods and supplements like yogurt and probiotics can help maintain the balance of healthy vaginal bacteria, although there’s mixed evidence. A healthy balanced diet is always a good thing, so if you do find yourself having trouble, it’s worth trying.
Instead of worrying about whether vaginal discharge is normal, get to know your body and what a regular and healthy discharge looks like for you. We all have it – but what’s normal for you is something only you can know.
Tests for seven STIs
Urine or swab test
Urine or swab test
Blood test for four STIs
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