Apr 27, 2022

THE DISCHARGE DIARIES

Vaginal discharge — identifying what is normal and what isn’t

Though not something commonly discussed, vaginal discharge is a normal and routine occurrence for many of us. Discharge is a fluid produced by the vagina and cervix (the tissue that connects the vagina and uterus) and is the body’s way of keeping these areas clean and protected. You might notice that your vaginal discharge looks different on certain days and, while not usually a cause for concern, these changes shouldn’t be ignored. Here, we help you identify what’s normal and what isn’t when it comes to your vaginal discharge.

The important function of discharge

Vaginal discharge is a natural, mucus secretion that serves an important function: it’s released by the glands in the vagina and cervix to carry away fluid, cells and bacteria. The multifaceted role of discharge is to help keep the vagina clean, maintain a healthy pH balance and prevent vaginal infections.

It isn’t unusual for the amount of discharge­ – as well as its odour, texture and colour — to vary from person to person. Some people might notice discharge every day, while for others it may be less visible. The cyclic nature of menstruation and fluctuations in hormone levels also means that discharge may be more or less noticeable at different times of the month.

There’s variation in how vaginal discharge will look, feel and smell

So we’ve learnt that discharge is a normal and healthy part of our vaginal ecosystem, but how well do you know your own?

From clear and sticky, to white or creamy, and all the options in between — we’ve broken down what the differing types of discharge can mean:

THIN AND CLEAR

This is normal discharge that can appear at any time of the month. You might notice it’s heavier than usual after exercise.

STRETCHY AND CLEAR – AN EGG-WHITE CONSISTENCY

Also normal! Typically, this is the discharge you can expect when ovulating. This is because ovulation begins around two weeks before your period is due, and slippery discharge helps sperm move more easily through the cervix and into the fallopian tubes to meet the egg. If you’re wanting to get pregnant, this is the optimal time to conceive.

WHITE AND CLUMPY

Discharge that’s thick, white and has the texture of cottage cheese is a common symptom of a yeast infection. It happens when the yeast levels in your vagina are unbalanced, and it’s not normal. Though easily treatable, you’ll need to visit your GP.

THICKER THAN USUAL

If your discharge is thicker than normal, but you don’t have any other symptoms like a strong odour or itchiness, it’s likely just end-of-cycle creaminess. Discharge usually increases in thickness during the second half of your cycle, so this is normal.

CREAMY

Creamy discharge can be a sign of pregnancy. It’s normal for people to have thicker discharge — and more of it — early on in their pregnancy.