Did you know that Vaginal discharge isn’t the most glamorous of conversations but if you know anything about your body, you should understand how normal and even important it is to pay attention to your body’s secret messages!
So, what are those secret messages? Vaginal discharges tell us a lot about our bodies. It can tell us when something is off balance and headed toward a condition or infection that needs to be addressed. But not all vaginal discharges are a cause of concern — some are simply a sign of normal body function.
In this article, we'll break down the most common types of vaginal discharges and what they mean - so you can get back to feeling informed and in control of your health.
What Is Vaginal Discharge?
Vaginal discharge is a normal and healthy bodily process that helps your vagina stay clean and moisturized. It typically ranges in color from white to clear, and in consistency from thin to thick. Every woman is different, so your vaginal discharge may vary depending on where you are in your cycle, or even based on your hormone levels at any given time.
Your vaginal discharge can tell you a lot about your health, so it’s important to pay attention to it. Generally speaking, healthy discharge doesn’t have a strong odor or color—it should be relatively odorless and appear clear or milky white. Here are some other common types of vaginal discharges and what they might mean:
Clear & Stretchy Discharge - This usually happens around ovulation when your estrogen levels are at their highest.
White & Thick Discharge - This could indicate something is off balance with either your hormones or pH levels.
Yellow or Green Discharge - This could be a sign of infection, such as bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis.
Brown Discharge - Brown discharge may be normal right after you start your period, but otherwise it could mean something more serious like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or cervical cancer.
Understanding the different types of vaginal discharges can help you determine if it's time to make an appointment with a health care professional for further evaluation and diagnosis.
Different Colors of Vaginal Discharge: What They Mean
So you’ve taken a look at your discharge. Now, you might be wondering what those colors mean and what to do about them. Here’s a quick rundown of some common vaginal discharges and their meanings:
Clear - Clear discharge is usually nothing to worry about – it can simply be your body’s way of keeping your vagina clean and moist.
White/Creamy - White or creamy vaginal discharge is normal, and indicates that you are well-hydrated. However, if it has a strong odor or is accompanied by itching or burning, seek medical attention as it may be an infection such as yeast or bacterial vaginosis.
Yellow/Green - Yellow or green discharge could be an indicator of an infection such as trichomoniasis or gonorrhea. If this is the case, it is important to seek medical attention for treatment.
Gray/Grayish-White - Gray or grayish-white discharge could also indicate an infection like bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis; again, seeing a doctor for testing is key to properly diagnosing the issue so proper treatment can be prescribed.
Changes in Discharge Texture: What Could Be Causing It?
Changes in your vaginal discharge's texture could be telling you something about your health. Your discharge's texture can range from being thin and stretchy, to thick and more like cottage cheese. Let's break down what each type of texture means:
Thin and Stretchy
This type of discharge is typically clear or white in color, and is naturally alkaline (the opposite of acidic). This type of discharge appears during ovulation, so if you have it you're most likely fertile.
If your discharge is looking thicker or “clumpier” than usual, it could be an indication that something might be off with your pH level, as this thicker consistency usually indicates a higher amount of acidity. If this is the case, it’s best to get checked out by a doctor who can perform further testing to see if anything is wrong.
If you start to notice that your discharge has taken on a cottage cheese-like consistency or smell then this can indicate an infection such as bacterial vaginosis or thrush—though it could also be caused by certain sexual activities like using sex toys. If you’re experiencing any additional symptoms, such as itching or burning around the vagina, then it’s important that you go get checked out by a doctor right away.
Abnormal Discharge: When Should You Seek Medical Help?
So, there are several types of vaginal discharge that are normal during your menstrual cycle. But what happens when you start to notice something abnormal?
When it comes to abnormal discharge, there are two main categories:
Discharge that isn't normal for you
Any kind of discharge that’s accompanied by unpleasant symptoms, like pain or itching
If your discharge has changed in consistency or if you've started to see weird colors or smells, it's important that you contact a medical professional as soon as possible. That’s especially true if you have discomfort or any type of accompanying symptom.Your health is worth seeking help for and your doctor can help identify the cause and recommend a treatment plan — so don't be afraid to speak up!
Is It an Infection or Sexually Transmitted Infection?
If you notice a change in your vaginal discharge, it could be an infection.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
Bacterial vaginosis is a common infection that occurs when there's an imbalance of the vagina's natural bacteria. The symptoms are usually a gray-white, fishy smell and a thin white discharge. Don't worry though, because it can usually be easily treated with antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.
Yeast infections (aka candidiasis) are caused by the fungus Candida albicans and result in a cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge along with itching and burning sensations. These infections will typically require an antifungal medication or ointment to treat it effectively.
Chlamydia or Gonorrhea
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two sexually transmitted infections (STI) that can cause changes in your vaginal discharge, specifically yellow-green in color, with a strong odor. If you think you may have either of these STIs, please talk to your doctor as soon as possible to get tested and treated.
How to Manage Vaginal Discharge and Keep Healthy
You can also manage your vaginal discharge to keep it healthy. Of course, it's important to recognize any changes in the color, odor, or texture as an abnormal change could indicate a medical condition like a yeast infection or sexually transmitted infection (STI). But there are other proactive steps you can take to make sure your discharge remains normal and healthy.
What you eat has a direct impact on the health of your vaginal discharge. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables help maintain bacterial balance in the vagina so that excess yeast levels are kept in check. It's also best to avoid processed sugars and starchy carbohydrates, as they may cause an overgrowth of yeast.
Drinking plenty of water helps maintain normal pH levels in the vagina, which is essential for overall vaginal health. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water a day - this not only helps hydrate throughout your body but also encourages normal flushing of old cells and material through your system.
Wear Breathable Clothing
Ensuring that you keep your vagina dry is another key way to manage healthy vaginal discharge. So avoid tight clothing, wear loose-fitting items when possible, and make sure to change out of sweaty workout clothes immediately after exercising. Doing so will help to prevent moisture from accumulating around the vaginal area, which can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria or fungi.
Vaginal discharge is a perfectly normal and even healthy part of your body’s functioning, and it can tell you a lot about your health. Pay attention to the color, texture, and amount of your vaginal discharge – any changes could signal an infection or other health issue.
If you’re ever worried about your discharge, you can speak with our Contact Centre confidentially on 08000022252 (FREE) or 22252 (Charges Apply). You can also chat with us on WhatsApp via 09099022252.
Visit our clinics to get a consultation with a non-judgmental and supportive provider. We’ll establish the issue and find the right treatment plan for you. We can answer your questions and help you take care of yourself. Stay informed and make sure to practice safe sex to keep yourself and your partner healthy. Regular check-ups can be an important part of catching any infections early and treating them quickly.