How to tell if your vaginal discharge is normal: The colour, consistency and other things you need to know
As long as the vaginal discharge is white or clear, thick or stretchy, has no smell and causes no itchiness, it is normal
Finding a bit of discharge on your toilet paper or underwear is nothing new for most women, though it often leads to concerns about sexual and reproductive health. While this worry is absolutely natural, it’s important to remember that so is vaginal discharge - in most cases, at least.
What’s normal about vaginal discharge?
Vaginal discharge is a normal part of the female physiology, and experts, as well as research from around the world, underlines this fact. As a 2007 study in the British Medical Journal points out, normal discharge from the vagina is “white or clear, non-offensive discharge that varies with the menstrual cycle". You might already know that the menstrual cycle has four stages which are marked by hormonal changes: menstruation, follicular phase, ovulation and luteal phase.
Each of these stages may have a different type of vaginal discharge depending on what the mucous lining of the uterus is going through and how much moisture is needed inside the vagina. The vaginal microbiome and hormones manage this discharge throughout the menstrual cycle, and other regular activities like sex and exercise can also affect it. As long as it is white or clear, thick or stretchy, has no smell and causes no itchiness, your vaginal discharge is normal.
Signs that something is wrong
While vaginal discharge may be a normal physiological process, changes in your health status can cause it to change. The study mentioned above shows that these changes in vaginal discharge could be caused by non-sexually transmitted infections like bacterial vaginosis and candida infections, or by sexually transmitted infection (STIs) like chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis. The following are some signs you should take note of:
- The colour of your discharge has changed
- The odour or smell of your discharge is foul
- The texture is foamy or is curdled like cheese
- The vulva itches, burns while peeing, accompanied by swelling or redness
- Abnormal vaginal spotting or bleeding that is not menstrual
If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to consult a gynaecologist without delay to discover the underlying cause and treat it.
Types of discharge and what they say
The following are the types of vaginal discharge based on their colour, and what they say about your health.
1. White: As mentioned before, white or clear discharge that’s thick and stretchy is normal. However, if the white discharge is very thick, foamy or like cottage cheese, and causes itching in the vagina, it could indicate a yeast infection.
2. Yellow: This is an abnormal type of discharge, especially when accompanied by a foul or fishy smell. It could be a sign of a bacterial infection or STI.
3. Brown: Old blood looks brown, so if this vaginal discharge occurs right before or after your period, it’s just a normal cleanup. If it happens in the middle of the cycle, it could indicate anything ranging between spotting due to uterine or hormonal issues like fibroids or polycystic ovary syndrome and uterine or cervical cancer. It’s best to consult a doctor immediately.
4. Green: This discharge, just like the yellow one, can be a sign of infections. It’s best to get treated for it sooner rather than later.
For more information, read our article on White discharge.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
The information provided here is intended to provide free education about certain medical conditions and certain possible treatment. It is not a substitute for examination, diagnosis, treatment, and medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. If you believe you, your child or someone you know suffers from the conditions described herein, please see your health care provider immediately. Do not attempt to treat yourself, your child, or anyone else without proper medical supervision. You acknowledge and agree that neither myUpchar nor firstpost is liable for any loss or damage which may be incurred by you as a result of the information provided here, or as a result of any reliance placed by you on the completeness, accuracy or existence of any information provided herein.
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