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Here’s What’s Normal Vaginal Discharge… and What’s Not

April 20, 2022

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Talking about vaginal discharge can lead to an uncomfortable, even taboo, conversation. Even when talking with your OBGYN, it can feel awkward. But if we never talk about it, how are women supposed to know what’s normal? If you’re wondering whether vaginal discharge is common, we’re here to open the door for that conversation. We’ll cover what it is, why it exists, when to worry, and how to manage it.

What is Vaginal Discharge?

Let’s open with the basics. When we say vaginal discharge, what are we referring to? Vaginal discharge is a fluid created by a woman’s body inside her vagina and cervix. There are many reasons why this discharge is needed, including:

  • Carrying dead cells out of the body
  • Removing excess bacteria and foreign material
  • Cleaning
  • Preventing infections through balancing pH
  • Lubricating and reducing friction
  • Moistening membranes
  • Assisting sperm travel for fertilization

Those are all very important functions that could not be carried out without the help of vaginal discharge. So now that you know why you have it, you may still be wondering — what does normal vaginal discharge look like?

Normal discharge is clear or milky white, and thick. A woman’s body adjusts the production of discharge to match her needs throughout her menstrual cycle; therefore, the look, feel, and amount of fluid will change at different points in her cycle. For example, a short-lived, watery-brown discharge after her period is a sign that a woman’s uterus is preparing for her uterine lining to replenish.

The menstrual cycle and fluctuation of hormones in your body aren’t the only things that control the ebb and flow of your fluids. Other factors may affect your vaginal secretions including:

  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual Activity
  • Medications including birth control
  • Menopause (reduction in discharge)

Now that we’ve established that healthy vaginas produce regular discharge, let’s talk about when your secretions can function as a warning sign of illness.

When Should You Be Concerned About Vaginal Discharge?

By now, we can see that vaginal discharge serves a very important function in a woman’s body for daily health and regulation. When things start to get off course, discharge has another superpower. It’s an excellent indicator and early detector of disease.

What is your vaginal discharge telling you?

White and Chunky with Symptoms

Alone, thick white discharge is not a concern. However, if you have additional symptoms like itching, redness, dryness, or irritation, and the texture resembles cottage cheese, this could be a sign of an infection.

Yellow or Green & Odorous

Discharge that is yellow or green is usually accompanied by a foul odor and is a sign of a bacterial infection or possibly a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Other Accompanying Symptoms

If you notice a change in your regular cycle of discharge along with some of these other red flags, you should discuss your symptoms with your gynecologist.

  • Frothy or foamy
  • Pelvic pain
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Itchiness
  • Soreness or burning
  • Brown in color (except directly after the monthly period ends)

If you are experiencing any of these red flags in your discharge, we recommend that you speak to your OBGYN to see if there is an underlying cause that can be treated. You can get a professional assessment in addition to testing and treatment online from the comfort of your own home with My Virtual Physician’s board-certified doctors who are standing by for your call.

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Good Hygiene Practices for Vaginal Discharge

If your vaginal discharge is within the normal parameters, you might just be wondering how to practice good personal hygiene when you have vaginal fluid seemingly leaking out. If you find that your underwear has been lightly coated with a white or yellowish tint, as normal as that is, it can be a nuisance.

For days where your discharge is more bothersome, you can try using unscented, breathable pantiliners. Cloth pantiliners are a good option; they are less irritating than the disposable versions that come with an adhesive that can limit airflow. If you choose disposable liners, be sure to pick unscented to avoid irritation and upsetting your normal pH balance.

Other ways to keep your undergarments fresh include choosing breathable underwear, like cotton, and changing underwear throughout the day as needed. Be sure to avoid products that can upset your natural pH levels, like scented soaps and douching, as those may increase your discharge.

Related: Top 5 Tips to Maintain Vaginal Health: Things You Were Never Told

We hope that this article clears up any confusion about what’s normal when it comes to vaginal discharge and when it may warrant further investigation. Do you have any other tips for managing your lady part secretions? If so, we’d love to hear from you, send us a message to share your insights!


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