Vaginal discharge. All of us ladies have it and it’s perfectly normal and healthy. The vagina is an amazing, self-cleaning organ and discharge produced at the neck of the womb (or cervix) helps to keep the vagina clean, moist and protected from infection. All great things, we’re sure you’ll agree!
You may have noticed some variations in your discharge. This is to be expected - it’s influenced by your monthly cycle. By understanding some of these normal variations and becoming familiar with what discharge is usual for you, it can help to raise a red flag when any changes occur, which could happen for a variety of reasons (which we’ll come on to later).
What is normal vaginal discharge?
Your discharge is normal if it:
- Doesn’t have a strong or unpleasant smell
- Is clear or white
- Is thick and sticky
- Is slippery and wet
Vaginal discharge colour – what could it mean?
- Clear – Healthy discharge
- White – Healthy discharge. Can also indicate a yeast infection
- Pink – Start of period
- Brown – End of period
- Yellow or green – Infection (bacterial or sexually transmitted)
- Grey – Bacterial vaginosis
Important to note...
If you have blood-tinged (pink, red or brown) discharge at any point other than when you’re on your period, it’s worth discussing this with your GP so they can rule out anything more serious which could be causing abnormal bleeding.
Consistency of vaginal discharge
The consistency of your vaginal discharge can change throughout the month. It’s not uncommon for discharge to be thick and white before or after your period. You may notice viscous vaginal discharge (a similar consistency to egg whites) before ovulation. This is no coincidence! This change happens to make it easier for sperm to swim through and fertilise a waiting egg. Isn’t the human body remarkable?
Changes in vaginal discharge smell
As we mentioned earlier, healthy vaginal discharge does not have a strong or unpleasant smell. If the smell changes in any way, this can indicate an infection. For example, bacterial vaginosis can produce discharge with a strong, fishy odour, which may be more noticeable after sex.
If you think you might have bacterial vaginosis (sometimes abbreviated to BV), please don’t worry – it’s treatable with a course of antibiotics.
Not entirely unrelated to this topic is the subject of vaginal odour. In many chemists and supermarkets, you’ll see intimate deodorants and wipes lining the shelves. These products are unnecessary and can do more harm than good. They can actually cause thrush (yeast infections) – resulting in thick, white discharge which resembles cottage cheese or thin, watery discharge, as well as other possible symptoms of itching, and stinging when passing urine. Not pleasant! Keep your vagina happy by cleaning your vulva (the area outside your vagina) with plain, unperfumed soap once a day.
Seeking medical advice
If you notice any changes in your vaginal discharge, please don’t hesitate to visit your GP. Don’t try to live with your symptoms, hoping they’ll go away on their own. Depending on the cause of the change in your discharge, there are lots of treatments and lifestyle advice available which will help you get back to your usual self.