A Healthier Happier Me

Vaginal Discharge Demystified: Knowing When it's Business as Usual and When to Take Action

Normal vaginal discharge is like an unsung hero of our lady parts. It doesn’t get the respect it deserves! So, let’s do something that most people don’t do when it comes to vaginal discharge… let’s talk about it!

The basics:

Under the influence of the female hormone estrogen, vaginal discharge is made by the cells lining the vagina and cervix.

Women who are menopausal normally have minimal vaginal discharge because of lower levels of estrogen. In women who are premenopausal, it is normal to have approximately one-half to one teaspoon (2 to 5 mL) of clear or white, thick, mucus-like, and mostly odourless vaginal discharge every day. However, the amount and consistency of the discharge varies from one woman to another. The amount can also vary at different times during the menstrual cycle. It may become more noticeable at certain times, such as during pregnancy, with the use of hormonal birth control, near ovulation, and in the week before the menstrual period. Normal discharge, which contains vaginal skin cells, bacteria, and mucus and fluid produced by the vagina and cervix, often has a slight odor. (Yes, a slight odor is normal!) This discharge helps to protect the vaginal and urinary tracts against infections; it also provides lubrication to the vaginal tissues.

So, how do I know if my discharge is normal or not?

Here are some red flags to watch out for:

    • Itching, burning, or soreness down there.

    • Greenish-yellow discharge or anything that resembles a science experiment gone wrong.

    • A bad odor

    • Blood-tinged discharge

    • Pain during sex or when you urinate

Common Culprits

So, what are some common causes for all this drama? Well, it could be a vaginal infection (such as yeast, bacterial vaginosis, or a sexually transmitted infection like chlamydia or gonorrhoea), your body’s reaction to a foreign object (such as a tampon that\ has been left in for too long), or even changes after hitting menopause.

Seeking Help: When in Doubt, Check It Out

If something feels off, don’t hesitate to reach out to your health care clinician (hint: Dr. Google is not the best option in this situation). Your clinician will ask you some questions, take a sample, and run a few tests to get to the bottom of things. If treatment is needed, they can make sure you understand your options. Sometimes, a thorough assessment will determine that your discharge is entirely normal; this insight is valuable as it helps you understand your body better.

Healthy Hygiene Habits

Now, let’s talk hygiene. Abnormal vaginal discharge may be more likely to develop in women who practice certain habits, such as:

    • Using douches

    • Wearing pantyliners every day

    • Spritzing with “feminine hygiene” sprays, rinses, or powders

    • Indulging in bubble baths or other scented bath products

    • Sporting tight or restrictive synthetic clothing (eg, thongs, synthetic underwear)

Suggestions to help keep your vagina in tip-top shape:

    • Using warm water to wash EXTERNAL genitalia (which is also known as your vulva). If you wish to use something in addition to water, use unscented non-soap cleanser- but still only use it EXTERNALLY

    • Avoiding douches or feminine hygiene products; if odor or discharge is bothersome, seeing a healthcare provider.

    • Opting for cotton underwear and steering clear of thongs and Lycra underwear.

    • Rinsing genitals with water and/or patting dry after toileting; avoiding the use of baby wipes or scented toilet paper.

So, there you have it – your crash course on all things vaginal discharge. Remember, it’s your body, and you’re the boss. If something feels off, don’t hesitate to speak up. Your lady bits deserve all the love and attention in the world!


Cervical Mucus. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21957-cervical-mucus

Douching. OASH Office on Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z- topics/douching

Lin, P., Chen, C., Cheng, M., & Shen, J. (2021). Vaginal pH Value for Clinical Diagnosis and Treatment of Common Vaginitis. Diagnostics, 11(11). https://doi.org/10.3390/diagnostics11111996

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/vulvaVaginitis. Hopkins Medicine.


Attribution: ©  Imani Habati, Unsplash

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