Vaginal Discharge

Vaginal discharge is the name given to that sticky mucus that is produced by your vagina. It is secreted by mucus-producing glands that are located throughout your cervix and vagina. As you have probably already noticed, vaginal discharge can vary in its appearance: sometimes it appears thin and sticky while at other times it can be thick and gooey. Typically odorless, vaginal discharge can be clear, white, or opaque in color. Most women begin producing vaginal discharge during puberty and will continue to produce about 4 milliliters of discharge every day for the rest of their lives.

Why Do Women Have Vaginal Discharge?

Though it may not seem necessary, vaginal discharge plays an essential role in helping your body maintain its reproductive system. Vaginal discharge helps to:

  • Balance Bacteria: Your vagina contains millions of bacteria, some of which are healthy and some of which are unhealthy. In order for you vagina to stay in tip-top shape, it needs to maintain the appropriate balance between these healthy and unhealthy bacteria. Vaginal discharge helps to sweep out excess bacteria and skin cells, allowing your vagina to maintain this balance, fight off infections, and remain healthy.
  • Lubricate the Vagina: Vaginal discharge serves as a natural lubricant to facilitate sexual intercourse. Without vaginal discharge, sexual intercourse would be painful and difficult, due to vaginal dryness. This is why you will notice that your vagina produces excess vaginal discharge when you become sexually aroused.

Healthy Changes in Vaginal Discharge

Vaginal discharge can change in appearance from week to week, and month to month. Some of the more common changes occur:

During Ovulation:

    • During ovulation, your vaginal and cervical mucus becomes thin, clear, and sticky. If you stretch this discharge between your fingers, you will notice that it can stretch quite easily without breaking. In fact, you can even use this change in your cervical mucus to help monitor your monthly cycles as well as identify when in your cycle you are fertile.

After Menstruation:
After menstruation, your vaginal discharge may become quite thick and gooey in texture. It may also appear increasingly white in color. This occurs because of a change in the amount of estrogen your body is producing.

During Pregnancy:
Many women notice a significant change in the amount of vaginal discharge that their bodies produce during pregnancy. This is due to the increased estrogen and blood flow that your body needs during pregnancy. As your due date approaches, you may notice that your body produces even more vaginal discharge. These extra secretions will help facilitate your baby’s move down the birth canal. You may also notice that your discharge becomes increasingly thin and runny towards end of your pregnancy. This is usually a sign that the mucus plug covering your cervix is beginning to dislodge, and labor isn’t far away!

Unhealthy Changes in Vaginal Discharge

Sometimes, the discharge produced by your vagina can change significantly in color, texture, or odor because of an ongoing infection. If you notice that your vaginal discharge is an odd color, resembles pus, or smells bad, it may be a sign that you are experiencing a bacterial or yeast infection, or that you have caught an STD. Some of the most common infections that cause changes in vaginal discharge include:

      • is white or opaque in color
      • has a clumpy texture (many women say that it resembles cottage cheese)
      • smells like bread or yeast
      • have a frothy appearance
      • look green or yellow in color
      • have a stale or musty smell

Yeast Infections
Yeast infections are one of the most common types of infections affecting women. In fact, most women will experience at least one yeast infection in her lifetime. Yeast infections occur when there is an overgrowth of a fungus (known as candida albicans) in the vagina. It is important to get your yeast infection treated properly in order to prevent ongoing or chronic infection. During a yeast infection you may notice that your vaginal discharge:

Trichomoniasis is one of the most common STDs in the United States. It is generally contracted after unprotected sex with an infected person. Trichomoniasis is caused by a tiny parasite, which infects the urinary tract. If left untreated, it can cause serious damage to your reproductive tract. If you have trichomoniasis your vaginal discharge may:

Keeping Your Vagina Healthy

There are some things that you can do to ensure that your vagina and reproductive tract stay healthy, and that your vaginal discharge remains normal.

  • Avoid Douching: Douching actually increases your risk of experiencing unhealthy changes in your vaginal discharge. This is because chemicals in douching products change the bacteria levels inside of the vagina and can move dangerous bacteria up into the uterus, causing an infection.
  • Wipe from Front to Back: Always wipe from front to back after using the washroom. This will keep bacteria from your rectum out of your vagina.
  • Don’t Wear Tight Clothes: Avoid wearing tight pants or nylons. These will trap moisture around your vagina, allowing bacteria and yeast to multiply.
  • Wear Cotton Underwear: Cotton underwear is cooler and more absorbent that nylon underwear.
  • Use Panty Liners: Panty liners can help to absorb excess vaginal discharge. Avoid using tampons during pregnancy or when you aren’t menstruating.
  • Monitor Your Discharge: Keep an eye on your vaginal discharge from day to day. If you notice any odd changes, or are experiencing any pain, vaginal itching, or other unusual symptoms, contact your health care provider.

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