Because nobody wants to talk about what happens down there.
Although we may wish we didn’t have vaginal discharge, it is perfectly normal and plays an important role in keeping us healthy.
Discharge differs throughout your cycle, and from woman to woman. Most of us know what is standard for ourselves, but if the hue or texture has changed significantly, there is a chance your vagina may not be 100 per cent healthy. Abnormal discharge can be more serious than you expect, but is usually fixable after a quick trip to the doctor.
Please note, this is just advice from one woman to another. If you have any questions or concerns make sure you seek proper medical advice.
Clear and sticky
If you’re experiencing clear discharge, it indicates you are ovulating and you’ve got a very healthy vagina. Congrats! If you and your partner are hoping to get pregnant then this is the time to try.
Milky white or creamy
Again, not to worry. Towards the middle of your cycle and a few days before your period the progesterone release will make your discharge thicken slightly. This allows the cervix to block, and in turn block any sperm from entering the uterus.
White and clumpy
White discharge is completely normal, but when it is clumpy and a bit odorous you may potentially have a yeast infection. Alyssa Dweck, medical doctor and author of V is for Vagina, says an infection such as this causes discharge that is normally “thick, white, and causes lots of itching that can be both internal and external.”
So if your discharge is of cottage cheese consistency, or you are finding you’re itching and scratching more than usual, go see your doctor.
A yeast infection is a type of fungus that likes to grow in warm, moist and dark places, hence why the vagina is prone to it. To avoid infections, it’s best to avoid wearing wet outfits (like a damp swimsuit) for extended periods of time and ensure your clothes allow your skin to breathe; preferably cotton or wool.
Brown discharge will naturally occur at the end of your period. It is basically your vagina ‘cleaning out’ and freshening up. Clever thing!
Brown and bloody
Spotting may occur if you are on the pill, or in the first few months of pregnancy when you would expect your period to arrive. If this is the first time it’s happened and you’re not expecting, we recommend you take a pregnancy test and see your doctor. However, if it happens often, it may be something more serious like an infection, polyp or cervical cancer. A trip to your doctor is essential.
If your discharge is a shady yellow and accompanied by a foul smell, you may have an infection called bacterial vaginosis, which comes from an imbalance of microorganisms within the vagina. Sometimes sperm can contribute to this, so to lower the risk use a condom. A quick excursion to the doctor for some antibiotics will get rid of it for good.
There could be a number of things at play here, yet the most common are STDs, or an infection known as trichomoniasis and gonorrhoea. Chlamydia also can also cause symptoms such as this, but rarely. That’s why it’s so important to get our annual pap smears!
More watery than normal
You’ll often have watery discharge after exercising, however if it happens regularly there’s a chance you may have herpes. The increase in liquid comes about from the open sores herpes produces.
Dweck explains, “Herpes has many other symptoms – including that it’s painful.” So if you’re uncomfortable below and are experiencing watery discharge, there is a high chance there may be something wrong.
This can be common for women who are on the pill or have a IUD in place. If it is clear or white with no smell you are likely to be fine. If you are concerned, consult your doctor.
If you have noticed your discharge slowly becoming lighter and lighter then chances are you might be heading towards menopause.
Images courtesy of newhealthadvisor.com and meinlilapark.blogspot.com.au