9 Things You Need To Know About Your Discharge
What exactly is vaginal discharge?
“Vaginal discharge is the way the female reproductive system keeps itself clean and prevents infection,” says Dr Georgina Leslie, gynaecologist and medical advisor for Yoppie. “It’s made up from the glands inside the vagina and cervix, and it carries away dead cells and bacteria. It’s normally a clear to milky white colour, and has a slight odour.”
How much discharge is normal?
Discharge changes in quality, quantity and function in response to your changing hormones. But we are all unique and no two women are the same. The amount of discharge also varies between women and there isn’t a ‘normal’ amount of discharge any one person should have. That said, it is abnormal to have no discharge at all. “It’s important to understand that some people naturally produce more discharge than others,” adds Andrea Maduro, MD, medical advisor at Flo Health. “Paying attention to your discharge throughout the course of your cycle can help you familiarise yourself with your body.”
What are the different types?
Changes in your discharge can signal the menstrual phase you are in, or if you are sexually aroused. “The easiest way to understand the changes in your discharge is to describe how it looks and feels,” says Andrea. “It can feel dry to the touch or slightly damp. This is a small amount of fluid that evaporates quickly and leaves little or no appearance on your underwear. This is typically what you will see immediately after your period. As you get closer to ovulation, discharge may be sticky. It may look slightly white or yellow, resembling glue. On your fingers, it may be sticky, pasty or even crumbly. It may sit on top of the fabric on your underwear and not soak in. Then, as you approach ovulation (releasing an egg), your vagina may feel slippery and watery. To the touch, discharge will feel wet, sticky and elastic. If you place it between your index finger and thumb, then move them apart, it stretches. It will have the appearance of egg whites (clear to milky white). This discharge can make your underwear feel wet.”
Are there any other types?
Watery discharge that is clear or slightly white happens when you are sexually aroused. “This can feel like water running out of your vagina,” says Andrea. “This type of discharge can make much larger wet spots on your underwear that can even soak through.” This type of fluid is a lubrication that makes sex more comfortable and helps sperm get to their ultimate destination.
So what’s not normal?
Keep an eye out for a fishy odour; a texture that resembles thick, white cottage cheese; green, yellow or frothy discharge; pain in your pelvis; bleeding in between your period when it’s not expected; or any accompanying blisters or sores on the skin outside of your vagina. “All of these factors can be a sign of an infection,” says Georgina. “If you notice any of them, pop in to see your GP or to your local sexual health clinic.”
Does your discharge reflect how healthy you are?
Yes – aside from an infection, there are other factors that can affect your discharge. “It can even come down to how hydrated you are, your stress levels, and whether you smoke,” says Andrea. “All of these factors can affect the quantity and type of discharge you produce. At the same time, if you don’t notice any changes at all throughout your cycle, this may be a sign of a hormonal imbalance, while unusually abundant amounts of discharge that appear for several consecutive weeks could be a sign of high oestrogen levels. At the same time, very low amounts may represent low oestrogen levels. To understand the changes in your discharge, it can be helpful to track them throughout the month, like you may already do with your period. Logging your symptoms can help you notice patterns and better understand the signals of your body.”
Can your discharge ever tell you whether your period is about to come?
Yes and no. “Some women experience a brown discharge or pink spotting one to two days before their period starts,” continues Georgina. “This is due to the hormone progesterone declining, which affects the lining of the uterus.” If you are tuned into your discharge, you may notice clear and stretchy discharge around the time of ovulation. In the days following this, discharge decreases, and this is a sign your period is imminent.
How can you keep yourself feeling fresh?
“Try wearing breathable underwear and clothing and always change your underwear daily,” Georgina advises. “Also consider using unscented and breathable panty liners and change them frequently, especially when they become excessively moist. You can also explore using period underwear – which is designed to absorb and hold fluid – for everyday vaginal discharge.”
If you want to chat to an expert, where can you find support?
If you’re concerned about your intimate health and have noticed abnormal changes which last for more than three cycles, start by chatting to your GP. “If you aren’t registered with a GP or want to explore other options, you can also attend a local sexual health clinic or visit SH.uk to explore the possibility of home testing,” finishes Georgina. “Ultimately, remember each body is unique so don’t compare your discharge to someone else’s. Changes show up differently for all of us – getting to know your cycle is the most empowering thing you can do for your health.”
For more, head to Yoppie.com & Flo.Health.
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