Bad vs Healthy Vaginal Discharge
Updated: May 18
Let’s discuss a topic that is often considered taboo, but is important for all women to understand - vaginal discharge. It may be a common and natural occurrence for all women, but understanding the difference between healthy and bad discharge can help you take charge of your vaginal health and catch any potential problems early on.
In this blog post, we'll cover what healthy discharge is, what types of discharge can indicate a problem, and when to see a doctor. So, whether you're a seasoned pro or new to this topic, keep reading to learn more!
In this article:
Why do I have vaginal discharge every day?
Unfortunately, whether you like it or not you can expect to see some amount of discharge almost every other day. It is not something you can prevent because it’s your body’s way of keeping your vagina clean and healthy. One of the many functions of your vagina is to provide a route to your uterus and reproductive system. The fluids in your vagina help to create a naturally acidic environment. It also helps to promote a good balance of bacteria or flora. If you’re worried about too much discharge, wear a panty liner to help absorb the fluid. But sometimes, the vagina's natural balance can be disrupted and those fluids can change.
What does healthy discharge look like?
Usually, healthy/normal vaginal discharge should be clear or white. It shouldn’t smell bad, and its thickness may change throughout your menstrual cycle. Other characteristics of healthy vaginal discharge include:
Texture: Normal vaginal discharge ranges from watery and sticky to gooey, thick and pasty.
Colour: Vaginal discharge is healthy if it’s clear, milky white or off-white.
Smell: Vaginal discharge may have an odour, but it shouldn’t be strong and shouldn’t be unpleasant.
Amount: Some people produce lots of vaginal discharge, while others produce less. Certain factors like pregnancy, using birth control pills or ovulation can affect how much vaginal discharge you have.
What about bad vaginal discharge?
Differences in your vaginal fluids could mean you have an infection or other health condition. Here are a few things to look out for:
Texture: Vaginal discharge that is chunky, foamy or accompanied by itching and changes in colour may mean you have an infection.
Colour: Dark yellow, brown, green or grey discharge may indicate an infection or other issue.
Smell: If you notice a fishy or foul smell to your discharge and it’s accompanied by changes in texture or colour, you may have a vaginal infection.
Amount: Sudden changes in the amount of vaginal discharge you produce could mean something is wrong.
What does it mean if I have abnormal discharge?
Changes in vaginal discharge may or may not be a sign that you have a vaginal infection. Your discharge might change colour, become heavier or smell different. You might also notice irritation around the opening of the vagina and changes before or after your period.
If you have stringy discharge that's whitish to pale yellow and thick and clumped, and you have vaginal itching or burning, you may have a yeast infection.
If the discharge is heavier than usual, watery, and greyish with a fishy odour, you may have bacterial vaginosis.
If discharge suddenly increases and is green or yellow with a bad odour—or is causing other symptoms—you should see your doctor.
Common causes of abnormal vaginal discharge include:
Bacterial vaginosis (BV): This is the most common vaginal infection. It's caused by bacteria. BV is treated with antibiotics. It might not get better with over-the-counter (OTC) treatments like yeast infections.
Yeast infections: Vaginal yeast infections are common. You can find OTC treatments online or in a drug store. However, you shouldn't self-diagnose a yeast infection instead, we recommend you seek a doctor’s opinion before you begin treatment.
Trichomoniasis: This curable sexually transmitted infection (STI) is caused by a parasite. It can sometimes cause a fishy odour
Chlamydia: This STI is caused by bacteria. Discharge can have a strong smell.
Gonorrhea: This STI is also caused by bacteria. It can cause you to have more discharge than normal. You may also have a thinner or creamier discharge than is normal for you.
When should I see a doctor?
If you’re ever worried about your vaginal discharge, talk with a doctor as soon as possible. Especially if your discharge changes colour, smell, or consistency or if you’re noticing more of it than usual.
Other symptoms to watch out for include:
bleeding between periods, after penetrative vaginal sex, or after menopause
pain in the abdomen or during penetrative vaginal sex
irritation around the vagina
unexplained weight loss
pain when urinating
Vaginal discharge is normal. It’s your vagina’s way of staying clean and healthy. Healthy vagina discharge may change throughout your menstrual cycle. Signs of irregular discharge include a change in the colour, amount, consistency and smell of what you typically experience. Reach out to your healthcare provider if you have other changes in your discharge or if it’s coupled with other symptoms like pain or itching.
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