What is your body trying to tell you?
I’m just going to come out and say it. We’ve got to start talking about our vaginas. It’s only by being more open about discussing our bodies that we can really start to understand them, changing how we view ourselves in the process.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because even if we can discuss our lady parts sans shame, and acknowledge the fact that every vagina is different (which is totally okay), we still need to educate ourselves on how to maintain a healthy downstairs, and that’s tricky, because absolutely no one wants to talk about vaginal discharge. It’s not exactly watercooler conversation.
However, your discharge is more important than you think; it’s essentially your vagina’s way of telling you what’s going on inside. We’re all unique, and the makeup and consistency of lady juice varies from gal to gal, which means technically, there’s no such thing as ‘normal’, but if you’re experiencing any of the following types of discharge, it’s worth booking an appointment with your gyno or regular doc for a checkup. This is a PSA: women, start listening to your vaginas, especially if you notice this…
1. Discharge that looks like cottage cheese
Clumpy white discharge usually indicates a yeast infection. Mount Sinai associate clinical professor, Alyssa Dweck, says to take note if your discharge is “thick, white, and causes lots of itching that can be both internal and external.” Since fungus likes warm, dark, moist environments, anything that makes you sweaty down there can provoke a yeast imbalance. So if you’re prone to yeast infections, Dweck suggests ditching scented personal hygiene products, avoiding synthetic tights and leggings and always showering immediately after a workout. You can also go panty-free, especially while you sleep. “This allows the entire area to air out a bit,” Dweck explains.
2. Discharge with blood in it
Spotting between periods is common if you’re on the pill, so if the bloody discharge is an isolated incident, you probably don’t need to be concerned. If it’s persistent though, Dweck recommends going to see your gynecologist so they can talk to you about other birth control methods. “It could be caused by breakthrough bleeding on the pill, infections, polyps, ectopic pregnancy, and pregnancy,” she explains. It could also be caused by other serious medical issues like fibroids, cervical inflammation, and infection. If you’re not on the pill, check and see if you’ve forgotten a tampon, and if you haven’t, call a doctor ASAP.
3. Discharge that is yellow and pus-like
In addition to the unusual hue of your discharge, does your vulva also itch, hurt, or smell bad? If so, go and see your gynecologist, pronto! It could be gonorrhea, chlamydia, or a pelvic infection. Dwerk warns “while chlamydia can cause discharge like this, it more likely has no symptoms at all — so just because you don’t have a discharge doesn’t mean you don’t have it.” Also, keep in mind that the color of discharge you see in your underwear is not necessarily the actual color of your discharge, which can be oxidized and discolored by exposure to air. So if your underwear looks yellow, but the discharge itself is clear or milky, don’t freak out – you’re vah-jay-jay is perfectly healthy.
4. Discharge that is grayish-green, foamy and fishy
This could be a sign of bacterial vaginosis, a common but uncomfortable infection caused by an imbalance of the normal microorganisms in the vagina, and can be accompanied by a fishy odor and a burning sensation. It’s a common, mild infection, easily treated with a cream or pill your doctor will need to prescribe. Abstaining from sex can help lower your risk, but if that is a definite no-go for you, just use condoms to protect the PH balance of your lady parts.
5. Discharge that is heavier than normal
Excess discharge is a common side effect of the IUD, because the string irritates your vagina and generates more fluid. However if your v-zone is also itchy, then a yeast infection is probably to blame. Unusually heavy discharge is also a sign you might be pregnant, so if you’ve recently had sex it could be worth taking a test. If none of these fit, it could just be totally normal – the amount of discharge your body produces will vary month to month, depending on your hormones but, “as long as the discharge is clear or white and has no bad smell, this is normal and nothing to be concerned about,” confirms Dwerk.
6. Discharge that is watery
Extra watery discharge than usual could be an indication of a herpes infection, caused by open sores inside your vagina, which can weep and lead to watery, semi-opaque, occasionally blood-tinged discharge. You might also feel discomfort down there, and see more discharge than normal. “However, herpes has many other symptoms — including that it’s painful,” says Dweck. “So if you have it, you’re most likely going to know something is wrong without needing to see a watery discharge.”
7. Discharge that is lighter than normal
Suddenly noticing you’re producing significantly less discharge that usual could be a sign you’re approaching premenopause or menopause. As well as lighter volume, the discharge could also be thin, watery, and somewhat uncomfortable, Dweck explains. Perimenopause doesn’t usually begin until your 40s, but it can start in your 30s or even earlier, so if you’re concerned anything has changed with your discharge, it’s worth booking in to see your doc.
Comment: Do you pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you?