Vaginas love to self-clean and self-lubricate. Normal discharge is how vaginas get rid of unnecessary dead cells, bacteria, and secretions. This also protects you from infections and UTIs and helps keep your vagina lubricated.
Also read: All things V: Getting to know your bestie!
However, certain discharges might not be normal for your body. In this blog, we will discuss what's normal and not normal when it comes to vaginal discharges and when you should see a doctor.
What is vaginal discharge?
Vaginal discharge is an umbrella term. Cervical fluids, discharge due to sexual arousal, and cell debris from the vagina are all parts of vaginal discharge. Usually, this discharge is slightly sticky, with some colour and odour, but it should not be too overwhelming.
How does normal vaginal discharge look and feel?
Vaginal discharge starts around the time a girl starts menstruating. It generally tapers off after menopause. Normal vaginal discharge ranges from clear, white, and off-white to yellowish. It also has a subtle odour.
The type of discharge differs from person to person and can change in consistency and appearance depending on many factors such as infections, pregnancy, and menstrual cycle.
Since vaginal discharges are impacted by hormones, they could be thin and slippery or as thick as egg whites during different phases of your cycle or pregnancy.
How do different people deal with vaginal discharge?
Here’s what people of Reddit have to say when asked how they deal with vaginal discharge:
Here are a few doctor-approved tips for keeping your vagina clean and healthy:
- Use tissues to keep the area clean
After peeing, use a tissue to wipe your vagina clean from the front to back. Do not mess that order up as wiping from back to front might carry bacteria (like E Coli, which can lead to UTIs) from around your anus to your vagina and urethra.
- Use pantyliners
Panty liners keep your vagina dry and comfortable. They also help maintain hygiene without changing or worrying about staining your underwear.
Make sure you change them at least once a day.
- Wear loose, breathable clothes
Avoid wearing tight pants for a long time at a stretch, and pick cotton over synthetic materials when choosing your undergarment. Cotton allows your intimate areas easy breathability.
Change your undies 1-2 times per day depending on the amount of discharge.
- Do not use harsh, scented soap
Soap, body wash, or even scented intimate wash might irritate your genitals. It is always best to use lukewarm water. If you absolutely need to use a cleanser, opt for something mild.
Plus, consider changing your detergent or fabric softener if you think it is causing irritation.
- Do not douche very often
Normal discharge is your vagina’s way of cleaning themselves. Douching too much or too frequently decreases the vagina’s capacity to self-clean, causing you more harm than good.
- Changing your contraception
The latex used in most external condoms, diaphragms, and birth control gels can be irritating to women who are allergic to latex. While latex-free condoms exist, they are not as easily available as normal condoms.
If you think your current contraception might not be working for you, consult our judgement-free gynaecologists to discuss alternatives.
When is vaginal discharge not normal?
Abnormal vaginal discharge can be:
- Foul or fishy-smelling
- Heavier or thicker than usual
- Greyish, greenish, yellowish, or blood-tinged
- White and clumpy, like cottage cheese
- Accompanied by itching, burning, rashes, or soreness
If your vaginal discharge shows a sudden change in colour and odour, contains blood (while you are not menstruating), or causes itching or discomfort, it is probably not normal.
What causes abnormal vaginal discharge?
If you are experiencing abnormal discharge, one (or more) of the following might be why:
- Fatigue and weakening of the immune system (during pregnancy, for instance)
- Taking certain medications (immunosuppressants, antibiotics, etc.)
- Excessive douching or using harsh cleansers
- Wearing tight and damp clothes for prolonged periods
- Infections like STIs, yeast infection, and bacterial vaginosis
- Cervical or vaginal cancer
- Vaginal atrophy
What are vaginal infections?
Vaginal infection occurs if the natural balance of the bacteria normally present in your vagina is disrupted. The two most common vaginal infections (don’t worry, they can be easily treated) are:
- Yeast infection
Your vagina naturally contains a mix of yeast, including candida, and other bacteria. Certain bacteria, like lactobacillus, prevent yeast overgrowth. An imbalance in lactobacillus can result in the overgrowth of the Candida Albicans fungus, causing an infection.
If you feel a burning and itching sensation in your vulva and notice a curdy white discharge, you might have a yeast infection.
PS: While yeast infection during pregnancy is common, you should still consult a doctor ASAP if you are showing symptoms.
- Bacterial vaginosis
Caused by the overgrowth of the bacteria that normally lives in your vagina, this infection turns your discharge grey, white, or even green (rarely) and changes its natural odour to a peculiar fishy smell. Plus, it can cause a burning sensation while peeing.
What does the colour of your vaginal discharge indicate?
- Clear or off-white: These are a sign of a normal vaginal discharge.
- Blood red or brown: While this is normal during your periods, it can be concerning at other times. For instance, if you are bleeding for weeks at a stretch, going through heavy bleeding during pregnancy, or experiencing pain and an itching sensation along with the bleeding, you should see a doctor.
- Yellow or green: You might have contracted a sexually transmitted infection/disease.
- Grey: This usually signifies bacterial vaginosis and other infections.
When should you consult a doctor?
Consult a gynaecologist when:
- There’s a sudden change in your vaginal discharge
- Your discharge is heavy and uncontrollable
- You develop a fever and other bodily symptoms
- You feel the burning sensation is hampering your daily activities
- You have multiple sexual partners or a new partner, as STIs can cause abnormal discharge
Finding a good doctor for issues related to your vagina can be difficult due to the widespread stigma in India. Often, people choose to not see a doctor until their symptoms become severe as they don’t want to be judged. And that is exactly what we want to change.
At Rocket health, we believe in creating a judgement-free space where you can seek help for your vaginal health from the right gynaecologist. Book your consultation today, and join hands with us to cancel the stigma!