Vaginal discharge gets a pretty bad rep amongst women. It is considered unsanitary, unsightly and unsexy. Yet, regular discharge is actually vital to the female reproductive system, signaling the self-cleaning process which clears out any dead cells and gets rid of bacteria. Without it, women would risk infections, dryness and itchiness. The amount and consistency may change throughout the menstrual cycle and even throughout your lifetime. Although its presence is normal, there are ways to recognize whether the discharge is healthy or abnormal. Here are some of the types of discharge you may notice and what it can suggest about your health.
Clear discharge varies from watery to a sticky, egg-yolky texture. Many women experience watery discharge when they are physically active, although you can experience it at any time. However, if you are experiencing discomfort in or around your vagina in addition to the watery discharge, check with a medical professional to rule out any serious health conditions. If your discharge is clear and has a mucousy texture, you are most likely ovulating, which is a sign of a healthy reproductive system.
White, creamy discharge is common for women—more frequently for those who are taking birth control pills—at any time in the cycle. It usually dries a yellowish color and has a very slight odor. However, if it is thick with a cottage cheese-like texture, you may have a yeast infection. This will often be accompanied by itching and pain in the groin area.
Brown or bloody
Many women will get brown discharge before or after their period, which just means that the dried blood from the cervix is being expelled. You may also notice it between periods, which occurs when a woman spots while she ovulates. However, if it occurs for a prolonged amount of time during your period, this may be a sign of pregnancy. In rare cases, it may even be a sign of polyps, fibroids or even cervical cancer. Be sure to consult with your OBGYN and get the proper screenings.
Yellow and pus-like
If you are experiencing pain, itching and strong odor with the discharge, you may be at risk for some sexually transmitted infections such as trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). However, if you just notice a yellow tint in your underwear, this is totally normal. Remember, the color in your underwear is not necessarily the color of the fresh discharge.
Grey-green, white, or yellow and frothy
If the sight of the discharge doesn’t set you off, the smell definitely will. It will probably have a foul, fishy smell that you can notice even from far away, unlike the slight odor of healthy discharge. Some women also experience a burning sensation in addition to the frothy, greenish discharge. The most likely explanation is a common bacterial infection called bacterial vaginosis, which can be easily treated if you consult a doctor right away.