Decoding Your Vaginal Discharge
It’s completely normal. All women have it, yet, most of us are all horrified by it. We even hate saying it outloud. Well, here goes: vaginal discharge. It’s hardly likely to come up during a brunch conversation, but it’s important to understand.
For me, the first time I actually heard it spoken aloud was when my confident teen best friend casually said this one High School afternoon: “Don’t you hate it when your underwear gets dry and crusty?” I was like, “Woah, excuse me!” For a moment my friend panicked about opening up, but it led to a great conversation which left us both feeling relieved – we weren’t the only ones living with the dreaded “VD”, as my friend incorrectly abbreviated.
Instead of being ashamed when we throw our undies in the laundry basket, we need to appreciate that the mucus on our favorite lingerie is actually nature's clever way of cleaning and protecting the vagina from infection. It’s also a significant indicator of our overall health. Looking out for color change can help us spot any irregularities or issues with our bodies, but it’s also important to be aware of our own signature scent, too. Odor changes can be triggered by diet or even a stressful lifestyle. If our natural scent becomes unpleasant there could be an issue with our vaginal ecosystem – an imbalance or infection that needs attention. Essentially, understanding the ins and out of our body can help prevent problems before they arise. Here, we decode the messages our bodies are sending with a vaginal discharge color and odor guide. *Warning: don’t read while eating.
Thin white or clear discharge
This is particularly normal throughout your cycle. Usually odorless, not clumpy nor itchy. This type of discharge helps keep the vagina clean.
Egg white discharge
We hope this doesn’t put you off your morning boiled egg. This type of discharge, which unfortunately resembles egg white, is actually cervical fluid that usually occurs during ovulation. Some women have more discharge than others but it’s completely normal. Also of note, you are more likely to experience slippery discharge during sexual arousal and pregnancy.
Watery or bubbly with an unpleasant odor
If the discharge is yellow, green and comes with an itching sensation, and pain when urinating then chances are it's trichomoniasis (a common sexually-transmitted infection caused by a parasite).
Gray discharge with fishy odor
If you get the combination of the two, and the odor is particularly bad after sex, then you could have bacterial vaginosis (a type of vaginal inflammation caused by the overgrowth of bacteria), or an STD. Either way, it’s best to visit a gyno.
Is it also quite thick? It’s highly likely you have a trichomoniasis infection, which is commonly spread through sexual intercourse. It can also be chlamydia or gonorrhea, and you may experience a burning sensation during urination. Both you and your partner should be tested by a healthcare practitioner who can prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. It’s best that you both treat it otherwise the infection will continue to pass back and forth.
White, clumpy discharge
Some refer to it as the cottage cheese discharge due to its consistency, either way it is a very common sign of a yeast infection and is treatable. Speak to your doctor for medication.
Red or brown discharge
This is most common after a period, with your vagina cleaning out the last bit of remaining blood. If this discharge color is persistent throughout your cycle then seek professional advice as it might indicate an underlying health condition such as cervical or uterine cancer.
Dry. No discharge
No discharge is just as important to monitor. Dry, with no cervical fluid usually occurs for a few days just after your period when levels of estrogen rise. Estrogen is produced by follicles in your ovaries, preparing to release an egg.
Dry, but sticky
Usually after the dryness stage, when ovulation is over, the cervical fluid will become fibrous again. This is all a normal process in your menstruation.
When to see a doctor
As indicated above, certain colors (yellow, green, red or brown) and odors are cause for concern, but if you also experience heavy discharge or notice the volume increasing it’s also wise to seek medical advice. Also play attention to any pain, itchiness, and darkening of the skin around the vagina. There’s no need to panic, just seek your gyno to be on the safe side.