Vaginal discharge is a normal part of having a vagina. But sometimes what you see in your underwear can be a sign that something is wrong with your health.
The discharge is a largely watery fluid that contains good bacteria to maintain the pH balance of the vagina and protect against infection. It removes bad bacteria and dead cells from the inner surface of the vagina to keep the area healthy.
An OB-GYN and author of She-Ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health, Dr. According to Sherry Ross, these secretions naturally cleanse the vagina, just as saliva does for the mouth or tears for the eyes. Period.”
Normal vaginal discharge is typically clear or white in color (but may appear slightly yellow when dry in your underwear) and is mostly odorless. The obstetrician behind @theperioddoctor on Instagram, Dr. “If it has some odor, it shouldn’t be offensive or offensive,” Charis Chambers added.
The consistency and amount of discharge changes throughout the menstrual cycle. For example, when you’re about to ovulate, your discharge becomes a little clear, pliable, and slippery—like a raw egg white. This type of cervical mucus helps facilitate a sperm’s journey through the reproductive tract so an egg can be fertilized in the fallopian tube.
And while the discharge tends to be wet and slippery during ovulation, you may find it drier or stickier at other points in your cycle.
But there may be times when your discharge seems wrong. An OB-GYN and clinical assistant professor at New York University Grossman School of Medicine, Dr. Johana D. Oviedo offered a rule of thumb to determine if this is a sign of infection or some other health problem.
“The most important question to ask yourself is: Is this discharge associated with discomfort? Does it itch, does it have a very bad smell, has it changed significantly from what I’m used to?” Oviedo told HuffPost.
If the color, odour, amount or consistency is unusual, joyful, then it’s worth calling your medical provider.
Here are the signs to look out for in general and what they might mean:
Thick, Chunky White Or Yellow Discharge
This type of discharge may be indicative of a yeast infection caused by an overgrowth of healthy yeasts in the vagina.
“It’s often associated with increased amounts of discharge, as well as vulvovaginal irritation, itching, and redness,” Chambers said.
Oviedo notes that the discharge can darken like curdled milk or cottage cheese.
Fishy Scented Fine Gray Or White Discharge
Discharge that fits this description can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis, a common condition caused by an imbalance of naturally occurring bacteria in the vagina.
“Bacterial vaginosis isn’t usually as itchy or irritating as a yeast infection,” Chambers said. “The biggest discomfort is usually the amount and smell of the discharge.”
Neither bacterial vaginosis nor yeast infections are STDs, “but having sex can sometimes change your vaginal pH and vaginal flora,” Oviedo said. “And that can cause one of these infections.”
A thin, frothy discharge with a foul smell can also be a sign of trichomoniasis, a common but treatable sexually transmitted infection.
Thick Yellow Or Green Discharge
Yellow or green discharge may be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection such as gonorrhea or chlamydia.
Such discharges can also occur. It’s associated with “a foul odor or pain when urinating,” Chambers said. “But many bacterial infections are asymptomatic.”
Brown or Bloody Discharge
Some people regularly experience brown discharge for a day or two just before or after their period. A professor at the McGovern School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston, Dr. If that’s the case for you, you probably shouldn’t worry, Pamela D. Berens told Women’s Health in 2018. some ancient blood mixed with the stream. (Blood exposed to oxygen turns dark red or brown.)
But call your obstetrician if you have brown or bloody discharge at other times of the month, or if it’s unusual for you. It could potentially be related to a vaginal infection, polycystic ovary syndrome, uterine polyps, or other issues.
Brown or bloody discharge can also be associated with early pregnancy spotting, miscarriage or even an ectopic pregnancy. “So if there’s a chance you might be pregnant, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible,” Berens told Women’s Health.
So, if you haven’t already, start paying attention to how your discharge initially looks and smells so you can spot any changes. And remember that it will fluctuate a bit at different points in your menstrual cycle.
“Any constant change in quantity, odor, or consistency warrants a discussion with your doctor,” Chambers said. “This is especially warranted if these changes are associated with bothersome symptoms such as itching, burning, or pain while urinating.”
You may experience things like this that don’t fit descriptions. But if this concerns you, talk to your medical provider.
“Your doctor or qualified health care professional may perform an exam or take simple tests to rule out infection,” Chambers said.