Discharge: is it normal?
If I could go back to my teenage years, there are quite a few things I would tell myself. One of those things would definitely be: discharge is NORMAL. Why does no one tell us this when we’re growing up? I remember thinking that something was wrong with me, and I was too scared and uncomfortable to bring it up, not even to my mom or my doctor. So, today I want to take some time for a bit of real talk on all things vaginal discharge.
Today, we’ll dive headfirst into the totally normal world of vaginal discharge AKA our body’s very own messaging system. Yes, that's right, your body has its very own messaging system, and I’m here to decode it for you. So, let's embark, shall we?
Why do we have vaginal discharge?
Fun fact: every person with a vagina experiences discharge! We mean it, everyone. Vaginal discharge is a natural and healthy way for your body to maintain a balanced pH and cleanse your vagina. It can also send us important messages about our body, like if things are operating as usual, if we have an infection, if we’re fertile, or if we’re pregnant.
Different types of discharge and what they mean
Clear and Stretchy Discharge
This type of discharge is very common! You can expect it around ovulation (AKA your fertile window). It is typically stretchy, clear, and is kind of like raw egg white. The discharge is thin and slippery, and it may even be accompanied by mild cramps or a twinge in your lower abdomen. This discharge is a sign that you are most fertile, so it’s time to get it on if you’re wanting a baby *or* time for some extra protection if you don’t.
Thick and White Discharge
Thick and white discharge is a sign of a healthy vagina! It can occur throughout your menstrual cycle and is more prevalent at the beginning and end of your cycle. The discharge may be creamy, white, or slightly yellow, and it has a mild odor. But don’t be fooled, it may also be a sign of yeast infection if it comes along with intense itching, burning, cottage-cheese like texture, or abnormal odor.
Brown or Bloody Discharge
Brown or bloody discharge outside of your period and might feel concerning. But fear not, it is more often than not nothing to worry about. It might be a result of irregular periods, hormonal changes, or ovulation. In some cases, it can be a sign of implantation bleeding, which occurs when a fertilized egg implants itself in the uterus. If you experience prolonged, heavy bleeding, or severe cramps, it's essential to see your healthcare provider.
Yellow or Green Discharge
Yellow or green discharge may indicate an infection, such as bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis. The discharge may have a fishy odor and might come along with itching, burning, or pain during intercourse. It's crucial to see your healthcare provider for treatment, as untreated infections can lead to complications.
Sadly, the word “frothy” isn’t just used to describe your favorite beverage. Frothy discharge is a sign of trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted infection caused by a parasite (which sounds scarier than it is — it’s totally normal and treatable). It may be yellow-green in color and have a foul odor. Other symptoms of trichomoniasis include itching, burning, and pain during intercourse. It's essential to see your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment.
Watery discharge is typically clear and odorless and can occur at any time during your cycle. It can be more common during pregnancy and is a sign that your body is producing more vaginal fluid to support the growth of your fetus.
How much discharge is normal?
So, this is kind of a trick question. Because every single vagina is different, and there is no “normal.” Embrace your body and learn to understand what's typical for you.
That said, there are a few things that can increase your discharge levels, such as getting aroused (which is fun!), ovulation, or having an infection.
Can I make my discharge go away?
Discharge is normal and helps balance our pH, clean out toxins, and keep our vaginas healthy! So, no, you can’t make it go away. In fact, it would be a detriment to your health if you did that.
However, if your discharge is impacting your daily life or causing irritation, discomfort, or pain, then it’s time to see a doctor. There are some other reasons you should see a doctor for discharge:
- If you notice a big change in the amount of discharge you’re experiencing
- If your discharge is yellow or green in color
- If your discharge is causing intense burning or itching
- If your discharge has a foul odor or fishy smell