The Details on Discharge

by Dr. Aliza
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Maybe you’re embarrassed to talk about vaginal discharge. But there’s no reason to be. All women have it, and it’s normal for your vagina to produce secretions to stay clean, healthy, lubricated and protected against infection and germs. Basically, the flow maintains your vagina’s natural balance.

How do you identify normal vaginal discharge?

Normal, natural vaginal discharge is usually transparent and, if you detect an odor, it’s very mild. It can look white when it dries on your underwear. The amount of discharge or mucus produced by cells in the cervix varies along with changes in hormone levels. This is completely normal.

By the way, if you haven’t gotten your period yet but you’ve noticed that you’ve started to have some vaginal discharge, don’t worry. What this means is that your hormonal level is changing and your body is getting ready for you to get your first period. This usually happens 6 months to a year before menarche (meaning your first period). You should be aware that once you start having vaginal discharge, it’ll be with you for the rest of your life. It will decrease slightly after menopause. Women tend to differ, so vaginal discharge may vary, but you’ll get to know what’s normal for you. Most women don’t need to do anything special about their discharge. For the heavier days, avoiding tight clothing (like tight jeans and pantyhose) and wearing cotton underwear should be enough. Others may feel more comfortable wearing a thin pad or a panty liner.

Is it possible for normal vaginal discharge to change throughout the month?

Sure. You can see small changes during the menstrual cycle. The vagina’s pH or acidity level changes with hormonal fluctuations. This affects the vagina’s "natural environment" and may make secretions more abundant, whiter, denser, and so on. Factors that can cause an increase or change your vaginal discharge are:

  • Ovulation
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress
  • Sexual arousal
  • Drugs that contain hormones, such as contraceptives
  • Breastfeeding
  • Diet

Is there such a thing as abnormal vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge is an indicator of your vagina’s health, so if you notice changes in its regular color, texture, smell or amount, you may have a vaginal infection and should see your healthcare provider.

What can you do to ensure that your vaginal discharge is normal and to avoid vaginal infections?

  • Keep your vulva and vagina clean and dry. Do not use vaginal douches. These alter your vagina’s natural balance and can cause infections or make them worse.
  • Use condoms whenever you have sex to avoid contracting or transmitting STDs.
  • Don’t use perfumes or powders in the genital area, since they contain irritants.
  • Don’t wear tight pants because they limit good oxygen flow to the area.
  • Wear cotton underwear to prevent excessive sweating in your genital area.
  • If you have diabetes, keep your blood glucose (blood sugar) under control. Diabetic women tend to develop frequent vaginal infections caused by yeast, due to increased glucose.
  • If you use tampons, change them frequently.

Remember: Don’t medicate yourself. While some infections – such as yeast infections – can be treated with over-the-counter medicines, always check with a healthcare professional. As you can see, changes in your vaginal discharge can occur for a variety of reasons. But don’t forget that normal vaginal discharge is a natural part of the way a woman's body functions. Take care of, respect and celebrate your wonderful body.

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I LOVE this website!! The articles are soososo helpful! I always wondered what the sticky white stuff in my undies was haha but I was too scared to ask! Now I just need to ask my mom for liners...

" - Anonymous
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