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Vaginal discharge – normal and abnormal

Vaginal discharge is the result of secretions produced from small glands in the lining of the vagina and the cervix. All women have a little discharge starting a year or two before puberty and ending after the menopause.
How much discharge a woman notices changes from time to time and it will change quite a lot between periods. Different persons can have different volume of “normal” discharge depending on age, cycle periods, hormonal balance and sexual activities.

What is normal discharge?

The amount of discharge varies from girls to girls and from woman to woman. Different persons have different opinions of what is normal. But if it always involves using panty shields, or changing protection or underwear several times a day, then it is probably heavier than normal.

Vaginal discharge

Vaginal discharge

The amount of discharge is often influenced by hormonal changes in the woman’s body. The week before a period, being pregnant or using the oral contraceptive pills are all typically associated with an increase in vaginal discharge. A normal physiological discharge is usually clear and/or transparent, creamy and/or very slightly yellow.

When to be worried?

  • If you noticed sudden increase of the amount of discharge;
  • If you noticed changes of color of discharge (“unusual color”) – from yellow-whitish to brownish, reddish or greenish;
  • If you noticed unusual smell of your discharge.

Different types of discharge and self evaluation

White discharge: Thick, white discharge is common at the beginning and end of your cycle. Normal white discharge is not accompanied by itching. If itching is present, thick white discharge can indicate a yeast infection.

Clear and stretchy discharge: This is “fertile” mucous and means you are ovulating.

Clear and watery discharge: This occurs at different times of your cycle and can be particularly heavy after exercising.

Yellow or Green discharge: May indicate an infection, especially if thick or clumpy like cottage cheese or has a foul odor.

Brown discharge: May happen right after periods, and is just “cleaning out” your vagina. Old blood looks brown.

Spotting Blood and/or Brown Discharge: This may occur when you are ovulating/mid-cycle. Sometimes early in pregnancy you may have spotting or a brownish discharge at the time your period would normally come. If you have spotting at the time of your normal period rather than your usual amount of flow, and you have had sex without using birth control, you should check a pregnancy test.

Vaginal discharge

Vaginal discharge

Sexual activities and discharge

In most cases vaginal discharge can be changed according to your sexual activities. Discharge could be changed according to the number of sexual partners, frequency of sexual contacts, kind of sexual partners, birth control methods, birth control failure, kind of sex you are having, sexual abuse, etc.

Try to avoid unprotected sexual contacts because without protection the frequency of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is very high. If your partner has STI – you are on high risk!

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