If you have a vagina, most likely you have discharge. Women notice it most commonly around ovulation, but sometimes it can pop up for totally worry-free reasons like fertility and an errant period. Other times, however, it can be a neon sign pointing to a more serious issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Here’s a simple run-down of the many colors and types of vaginal discharge and what may be behind them.
If it’s clear and looks and feels like egg whites, it’s normal. The reason for it? The stickiness is a function of pulling sperm into your uterus. It will feel more wet and slick prior to ovulation and after the egg is released, it will thicken and wane.
Healthy, again! You’ll notice this sort of discharge in the latter half of your period as it takes on a creamier consistency. If you take hormonal birth control, you may see this more than your non-pill counterparts
White and Clumpy
Usually, this means there is something foul in Denmark, fair maiden. Cottage cheesy, white vaginal discharge is most commonly associated with yeast infection. This pesky fungus particularly loves warm, dark, moist environments (like the vagina) which then causes the infection. Antibiotics can also trigger yeast infections because they kill off the good bacteria in the vagina which normally fights off yeasty invaders. An excess of yeast infections has been linked with fertility issues, so be sure to seek treatment as soon as symptoms appear.
Pro Tip: Wear cotton underwear instead of blends, change when sweaty, and never sit in a damp swimsuit for hours on end. Also, if you are prone to yeast infections, make sure to tell your doctor so she can write you a prescription for an antifungal treatment to take in tandem with the antibiotics to avoid the discomfort of a yeast infection.
Spotting between periods is completely normal, even more so if you’re taking birth control. If bleeding is persistent or more than just a little bit, see your doctor. She can talk to you about other birth control options and screen you for polyps, fibroids, cervical inflammation, and infection.
Brown discharge is usually caused by irregular period cycles. However, if it continues appearing, see your doctor as it can sometimes be a sign of uterine or cervical cancer.
If your discharge is yellow and puss-like, it may be time for a trip to the doctor. If the discharge smells funky and you’re experiencing itchiness or pain, get thee to the gynecologist stat. It could be gonorrhea, chlamydia, or a pelvic infection.
Grayish-Green or a Foamy Yellow
If you’re experiencing these icky colors and experiencing vaginal burning and a fishy smell, you may have bacterial vaginosis. It’s fairly common and is easily treated with a pill or topical cream. It takes a few days to feel relief once you start treatment.
Liquidy discharge may indicate a herpes infection which is caused by open sores inside of the vagina. It is usually accompanied by some discomfort. Call your doctor to get tested.
Most times, vaginal discharge is just part of the menstrual process and nothing to freak out about. Take note, however, the color of the discharge on your pantaloons is not necessarily the actual color of the discharge. Air oxidizes it and can alter the color. Be sure to identify the authentic color of discharge before causing yourself unnecessary panic. When discharge is outside the norm, be sure to seek out medical help to keep you and your vagina as happy and healthy as can be.