Vaginal discharge is the viscous fluid that starts coming out of a woman’s body right after she gets her very first menstrual period. It contains a mix of vaginal secretions and cervical mucus, and has several functions. It naturally keeps the vagina clean and healthy, helps prevent infection, and provides lubrication during sexual intercourse.
Recognizing normal and abnormal discharge
Vaginal discharge varies from woman to woman, and varies in the amount, color, and consistency.
Normally, vaginal discharge is clear or milky in color, is watery or has a stretchy, egg white-like consistency, and may have a subtle scent that is not unpleasant or foul-smelling. The amount you experience will vary based on the normal hormonal fluctuations throughout your cycle. For example, you may produce more discharge when you are ovulating or when you are sexually aroused.
The color and consistency of your vaginal discharge can also change over the course of your menstrual cycle. But outside of normal changes associated with your cycle, other changes may not be normal and may be a sign that something isn’t right. For instance, if your discharge has a chunky consistency, is itchy, or is off-color (yellow, green, or brown), this is a sign of infection.
So how can you tell when vaginal discharge may be signaling a problem? You should watch out for these symptoms:
- Yellow, green, gray, brown, or bloody discharge
- Vaginal itching, burning, or swelling
- Discharge that is chunky, frothy, foamy, or looks like cottage cheese
- Fishy or foul odor
- Pelvic pains
If you experience any of the above, it’s best to immediately consult a healthcare professional.
Vaginal discharge is normal for women but when there are changes in the color, amount, or consistency of discharge, they may indicate a problem.
It’s a good idea to pay close attention to your vaginal discharge and recognize what is normal and what may be signaling a problem. Only you know your body. If you have vaginal discharge that doesn’t seem normal, immediately talk to your doctor. In most cases, causes of abnormal vaginal discharge can be treated successfully.