What is it?
Vaginal discharge is a mucus that is a result of the vagina’s self-cleaning. It’s completely normal, and virtually every single person with a vagina gets it. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about! It can range from clear and watery, to thick and clumpy. For most people, discharge is typically thick and clumpy for most of their cycle and then clearer/more watery during ovulation. This does however depend on your contraception! It’s important to know what’s normal and what’s not for your discharge in terms of consistency/colour/smell etc to recognise STI’s quicker (so you can get treatment quicker).
What’s normal and what’s not?
Whilst this can change for every vagina, typically normal discharge is usually –
- Light beige
- Slightly clumpy
- Slightly smelly (not an unpleasant one!)
You should see your doctor if your discharge becomes-
- Pink or blood-tinged
- Incredibly thick and clumpy (‘cottage cheese’ like)
- Unpleasantly smelly
You should definitely see a doctor if the above symptoms are combined with additional pain/soreness/pain during peeing/pelvic pain or bleeding not during your period or after sex.
These are the common culprits behind abnormal discharge-
Grey/off white/yellow/watery fishy discharge paired with itchiness– this is normally down to a bacterial infection; bacterial vaginosis. This is not an STI. The most common cause of this are scented soaps/cleaning products around/in your vagina, or douching (read more here!). However it can also be down to having new sexual partners. This is normally cleared up easily with antibiotics, or may go away by itself. It is advised to not ignore as untreated BV can lead to complications such as increased risk of PID and STI’s, as well as serious complications during pregnancy.
‘Cottage cheese’ creamy white/chunky/clumpy discharge paired with itchiness/pain during sex and peeing– these are the symptoms of a yeast infection such as thrush. Thrush is incredibly common, and easily treated. You’re likely to get it if you have sex when you’re not fully into it, leading to vaginal dryness/tightness during, which can actually trigger thrush.
Yellow/green and smelly- this signifies Trichomoniasis, or TV for short. This is an STI caused by a parasite that is typically spread by having sex without a condom or by sharing sex toys without washing or using a condom (not through oral or anal!). Trichomoniasis probably will not go away without treatment. The treatment is easy, with antibiotics.
Yellowish very smelly discharge paired with irritation It’s probably a sexually transmitted disease or infection like gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, or herpes. These are usually curable, or at least treatable and manageable. In any case, you should see your doctor.
Watery with no colour or smell and discomfort this could be a sign of herpes. Herpes causes open sores in the vagina, and they can ooze out, resulting in a heavier amount of liquid discharge. It is extremely common and easily treated.
Reddish-Brown or bloody this is normal before/after your period or if you’re on the pill, and is completely normal!. If this occurs at any other time, you should see your doctor.
Lots of discharge- this is still normal most of the time, but if it’s no much that it’s uncomfortable or running down your leg you should see a doctor. You may have a bit more discharge because you’re ovulating, sexually aroused or are breastfeeding!
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