What is vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge is fluid and cells shed via your vagina. Discharge keeps your vaginal health in check by providing a method of natural self-cleaning. This helps in maintaining the pH balance and preventing infections by flushing out bacteria and dead cells.

Vaginal discharge is normal. Normal discharge is comprised of the shedding of cells mixed with normal bacteria, fluid and mucus or natural lubricants of the vagina and cervix. It’s a mixture of natural secretions, old cells, and even bacteria that are continuously shed to keep the vagina lubricated, clean, protected, and free from irritation. With this, it is able to maintain its own balance of healthy pH and healthy bacteria and lactobacilli. This discharge actually keeps your vagina happy, healthy, and clean. It provides lubrication and protects against irritation and infection.⁣

How much is normal?

2-5 ml (half a teaspoon to a teaspoon) of vaginal fluid is normal per day. This varies greatly from woman to woman and throughout the menstrual cycle. It can be anywhere from white to clear, thin to sticky. Ovulatory mucus mid-cycle even resembles egg whites.⁣

Characteristics of normal discharge

  • Color: The color of healthy vaginal discharge can range from clear to a white or slightly yellow tinge.
  • Odor: A mild odor is common and nothing to be alarmed about. However, a strong, foul odor may indicate an issue and should prompt a visit to your healthcare provider.
  • Amount and Consistency: Throughout the month, the amount and consistency of your discharge can vary due to hormonal changes, especially during ovulation and pregnancy.
  • Variability: It’s essential to understand that what’s normal can vary significantly from one person to another. Comparing yourself with others may not give you a clear picture of what’s normal for you.

How to manage vaginal discharge

Remember, the vagina is a self-cleaning oven. It self-regulates very well.⁣ This means no douching, no “feminine washes,” no scents, no harsh soaps, no bubble bath, no panty liners (without a breathable environment, discharge actually increases)⁣. Anything you insert to attempt to “clean” your vagina (like douches, soaps, OTC suppositories), can actually do the exact opposite. It is more likely to throw off your vagina’s happy homeostasis and disrupt that balance rather than help it.

While discharge is a natural and necessary function of your body, there are ways to manage it and keep yourself comfortable:

  • Breathable Clothing: Opt for loose-fitting clothing and undergarments made from natural fibers like cotton for better air circulation. This will help prevent moisture and irritation.
  • Say No to Panty Liners: Regular use of panty liners is a no-go for me as they can increase moisture and temperature, creating an environment that may lead to increased discharge and possible infections.
  • Nighttime Care: Allowing your body to ‘breathe’ at night by going without underwear can help maintain a healthy environment and reduce excessive moisture build-up.
  • Personal Hygiene: When cleaning the vaginal area, simple practices are best. Use mild soap and water, and avoid douching, which can disrupt the natural balance and lead to problems. Avoid anything with “fragrance.”

When to consult your doc

While vaginal discharge is typically normal and healthy, certain changes can signify an infection or other medical conditions. You should consult a healthcare provider if you notice:

  • A sudden increase in the amount of discharge
  • A dramatic change in color or consistency, particularly if it becomes greyish, green, or frothy
  • An unpleasant or fishy odor
  • Accompanying symptoms like itching, burning, or irritation

Every woman’s body is different. What’s normal for one may not be for another. You should understand your body’s normal rhythm and changes that occur throughout your cycle. If something feels off, reach out to your provider! We’re always happy to help.

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The information provided on this website is strictly for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Our content is not a substitute for professional medical guidance, diagnosis, or treatment. Health and wellness are complex, highly individualized matters, and what works for one person may not be suitable for another. If you have any medical concerns or questions about your health, it is crucial to consult with your healthcare provider or medical care team. They can provide personalized advice based on your medical history, current condition, and specific needs. The internet can be a valuable resource for gathering information, but decisions about your health should always be made in partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.