Vaginal Discharge: What’s Normal, What’s Not?

In our series, “What’s Up, Down There,” we’re covering important vaginal health topics you might not have learned in health class. In this issue, we’re delving into the topic of vaginal discharge. We’re exploring why we have different kinds of vaginal discharge, including ranges in color, consistency, and odors, and uncovering what’s normal, and what’s not. While you may not think to pay much attention to discharge, it could help in revealing certain clues about your health. Hint: your discharge could tell you when you’re ovulating as well as point to signs of infection.

What Is Vaginal Discharge?

Having vaginal discharge is not only normal, but it’s healthy, too! The vagina typically secretes a white or clear-ish fluid every day, known as discharge. Discharge is a mix of cells, mucus, and fluids from inside the vagina and cervix.

What Purpose Does Vaginal Discharge Serve?

Vaginal discharge plays several important roles in a woman’s health. It aids in cleaning, providing lubrication and moisturization, and helping to prevent vaginal infections.

Discharge also plays a role in facilitating pregnancy. Rising estrogen levels help to create a certain type of cervical mucus that is more watery and lower acidity, creating a friendly nourishing environment for the sperm. During ovulation, discharge (aka cervical fluid) can help to serve as a guide for the sperm, helping them swim more easily through the cervix up to the uterus, where they are fertilized with the egg. This is when you’ll experience a slippery, stretchy type of discharge. You are most fertile when your cervical mucus resembles a raw egg-white texture. After ovulation, discharge becomes drier and thicker, making it more difficult for sperm to travel. That’s why, if you’re trying to conceive, keeping an eye on your changes in discharge could help you tell if you are ovulating.

What Do Different Types of Discharge Mean?

Discharge can come in many colors, consistency, and odors. The amount of discharge you have depends on different factors from hormone levels around our menstrual cycle to sexual activity. A “normal” discharge will usually be white or clear-ish in color. Though what’s normal can vary from woman to woman. It’s important to keep track of your typical color and smell, so you can notice if something is off. Let’s explore the range of abnormal discharge colors and what they mean.

What Should I Do If I Notice A Change In My Vaginal Discharge?

If you’re experiencing any of the “abnormal” changes above, it’s best to contact your Axia Women’s Health provider. Again, common signs of abnormal discharge include:

In most cases, vaginal infections such as BV and yeast, or STIs including chlamydia, trichomoniasis, or gonorrhea can be treated with oral medications. Of course, there are always steps you can take to help prevent infection including avoiding douching, practicing safe sex through barrier protection methods, and maintaining your overall hygiene by cleansing regularly with a non-scented soap.

The good news here: You know your body best! By keeping track of what “normal” discharge looks like for you, you can be more self-aware and know when to sense if something is off and when to contact your provider.

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