Vaginal discharge: Here are some useful things to know!

Vaginal discharge
The discharge might not get talked about all that much, but it’s likely something you’re familiar with. A woman may produce a lot of discharge, or barely any at all.

Knowing whether your discharge is normal is pretty simple once you’ve got the facts, are familiar with your ‘normal’, and understand your cycle. Here are some useful things to know:

What is discharge for?

Discharge is important because it’s your body’s way of keeping your cervix (the lower part of your uterus that period blood travels through) clean. It flushes out any harmful bacteria from your vagina, helping to create the right environment for a healthy, happy vulva.
Discharge is good in other ways, too. If it changes color and/or smell in a way that’s not ‘normal’ for you, it’s often your body’s way of letting you know that something’s not quite right.

What is a healthy discharge?

Healthy discharge is usually clear, pale yellow or milky white-ish, depending on the stage you’re at in your menstrual cycle. It shouldn’t have a very strong smell when it leaves your body but sometimes is a little tangy.

Every woman’s discharge varies, and even during one single cycle, it can change a lot. Therefore, there really is no definition of what’s ‘normal’ for women in general. Having said that, discharge tends to be transparent and heavy during ovulation, and before and after your period it’s usually more of a white-ish color. Finding out what’s normal for you means you’re more likely to spot an unfamiliar change, and then get it checked out.

What could signal a problem?

If your vaginal discharge starts to smell bad, is a different color to your ‘normal’, has blood in it, or becomes very heavy, you could have an infection. If this is the case visit your doctor – the most likely cause is thrush, which is a yeast infection.

Thrush might occur if your groin area is regularly too hot or too moist. If you often wear nylon pants or skin-tight jeans, this can increase the moisture and temperature of your vagina and vulva – so if you’re prone to thrush, it’s a good idea to stick to wearing cotton underwear.

If you find that normal shower gels or perfumed soaps irritate your skin, it might be to do with the ingredients used in these products. They can be drying to sensitive skin, and upset your pH, making you more prone to infection. The best way to find out if a particular product is causing your skin to become irritated is to stop using it and see if things improve.

Healthy vulva, healthy discharge

If you look after your vulva in a way that supports its natural function, you’re less likely to get an infection.

Because your vulva doesn’t get much of an airing in the day, it might be a good idea to go ‘commando’ (i.e., not wear any underwear) when you sleep: you’ll sweat less and reduce your chances of irritation, itching, and infection.

Showering regularly and changing your underwear every day means smell shouldn’t be a problem. But as it can get a bit damp down there, you might want to try a liner in your underwear.

At different stages in your cycle or life, your amount of discharge can vary. For example, it’s common to notice an increase when you’re ovulating, breastfeeding, or turned on. You might also notice differences in its smell if you are pregnant. Women who are menopausal normally have far less discharge than before, as a result of lower levels of estrogen.

Variations are perfectly normal, but it’s good to keep an eye on these changes as a way of getting to know your body. Use recommended towels, liners, wipes, and wash, to create just the right microclimate for your vulva. And because most of the recommended products work in harmony with your body, they support you in feeling clean, fresh, and comfortable.

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