#VaginalDischarge; What you need to Know

Vaginal Discharge is normal

Misconceptions exist about the normality of discharge and the amount thereof. Fortunately, many women and girls know that vaginal discharge is normal and is not associated with any sort of reproductive anomalies. However, we still have to demystify the subject for the benefit of all populations to lead a reproductively healthy lifestyle.

Let’s get this right first: Vaginal discharge together with cervical mucus is important in keeping the vagina working properly. It sort of lubricates the female reproductive organ while maintaining optimal pH levels. Basically, to keep the vagina moist and clean while protecting it from infection, you need to have normal vaginal discharge.

How do you know normal discharge? How much discharge is normal?

This subject has raised many questions among the female gender. Most importantly what is normal and what is not, the colour and the amount of discharge.

The normality of discharge can be affected by a number of factors. Most commonly, this will be affected by its source and the need for it.

Let’s break it down…

Vaginal fluid is a mucus-like fluid produced and released by special vaginal and cervical glands. The function of this fluid is to carry harmful bacteria and dead cells out of the body, thus, keeping it clean and from infection. The amount, colour and odour of discharge vary depending on the health of the vagina.

Amount of discharge

The truth is, the amount of discharge may actually be more than many women and girls think depending on the time of the menstrual cycle. For instance, the discharge tends to be more during ovulation, breastfeeding and when one is sexually aroused.

The good thing is that you can stop stressing about the amount of discharge. An average woman will have her glands produce one to two tablespoons of discharge which is approximately 1ml to 4ml daily. Ovulation and birth control may vary the daily amounts. Essentially this amount of discharge will significantly fill the entire surface of a panty liner. Yes, it is way more than you thought!

However, if you are producing more than this, you may need to see a physician to do a few tests. It shouldn’t be a cause for alarm but it could also be a sign of a fistula, the STI trichomonas, or a bacterial imbalance known as desquamative inflammatory vaginitis. Most of the time it is not necessarily so.

Colour of Discharge and what it means

Normal discharge colour ranges from a clear fluid to a milky white discharge. Two to three days after a period ends, discharge may take a thick viscous consistency, white in colour which may change to a more mucous consistency. Before ovulation, the discharge becomes clear and sticky, and before the next period, discharge is thick and white in consistency. During pregnancy, it takes a thin consistency, milky white in colour and mild smelling.

The figure shows colour profiles for vaginal discharge and what each means.

Image | UnityPoint Health | Courtesy

In Summary, this is how you check whether the vaginal discharge is normal…

You shouldn’t be alarmed when;

  • is clear or white
  • is thick and sticky
  • doesn’t have a strong or unpleasant smell
  • is slippery and wet for a few days during ovulation (between periods)
  • it is heavier during pregnancy, ovulation, breastfeeding, when sexually active and when you are using birth control pills

And this is when it can be a sign of infection…

  • when it changes in smell, colour or viscosity (consistency/texture)
  • you produce more discharge than usual
  • you feel itchy or sore
  • you bleed between periods or after sex
  • you get pain when peeing
  • you get pain in the area between your tummy and thighs (pelvic pain)

Immediately any of these signs are present, see a doctor or go to a sexual clinic.

To help prevent irritation, soreness and dryness, wash gently and use water and an emollient or just plain soap. Avoid the use of things like perfumed soaps and gels as well as deodorants or scented hygiene wipes.

Always Stay Aware!

There are marked normal and abnormal changes in vaginal discharge. Your health is your responsibility. As such, you need to stay aware of these changes. This will allow you to identify infections and any other problems associated with vaginal health. Always seek a medical opinion on abnormalities as well as awareness questions.

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