Is It Normal to Have Vaginal Discharge? Find Out!

Underwear with discharge
Vaginal discharge is the one thing, other than the menstrual cycle, that women notice and use to judge wellness in their bodies. If your cycles are regular and on time, and your vaginal discharge is normal, you feel your body is healthy, right? But, if a woman starts skipping her cycles or having too many cycles or bleeding heavily, she knows something is not right with her body. Okay.

Still, so many of you come in (most of you for other female problems) and I find out that you are constantly dealing with abnormal vaginal discharge or odor. You and your partner feel it is just 'normal' for women to have a fishy or strong odor all the time. Isn't that what all those tuna fish and fisherman's wharf jokes are all about? Men know it, and they talk about it and think that's just the way it is – so, just grin and bear it.
Women don't know what to do. It's embarrassing, right? Three showers a day, and you still worry if everyone else can smell you. You can't wash it away, and that SUCKS because you know he's going to smell you during sex. But feminine sprays, lotion or soap, and water do not help.

ALSO READ: When Girls Worry about "That Smell" – understand WHY there’s an odor and HOW to manage it.

It is normal to have vaginal discharge. Some women produce more vaginal discharge than other women, and this is due to hormonal fluctuations. Teenagers and pregnant women both have higher than normal hormone levels which causes an increase in vaginal discharge. Women who are dry and lack discharge may have low hormone levels, like in menopause or during breastfeeding. You may also notice changes in the amount of vaginal discharge, changes in its consistency, (thick, thin, watery, sticky), and sometimes find it necessary to wear a pad or panty liner. Birth control pills will change vaginal discharge because it balances the female hormones and is good therapy for women who feel too 'wet' all the time.

But, no matter the amount or consistency of discharge, it should never have a foul or fishy odor. At times, the discharge may have a slight odor, due to hormonal changes during the month or during the final day of your cycle – due to pH changes from the menstrual blood. Normal discharge should not be accompanied by pain, itching, burning or redness.
Vaginal discharge is very important to the female reproductive system. Fluid made by glands inside the vagina and cervix carries away dead cells and bacteria. This keeps the vagina clean and helps prevent infection. A change in your normal vaginal discharge may be a symptom of a vaginal infection.

Most of the time, vaginal discharge is perfectly normal. The amount can vary, as can the odor, and the color can range from clear to a milky whitish, depending on the time of your cycle.

Important things to watch for to determine if there is an infection include the length of time you have had the abnormal discharge, the color/odor of the discharge and the presence of any itching, pain, or burning in or around the vagina. Different infections present with different types of discharge and symptoms:

  • Chlamydia and gonorrhea are obvious, as there is a copious amount of cloudy, yellowish discharge, sort of like having a period of discharge, with an awful odor that is so different from the normal everyday discharge that it can alarm most women. In addition, they can cause urinary incontinence, painful sex, severe pelvic pain, bleeding, and irregular cycles if not treated quickly. Also, they can be the cause of PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) which can cause severe illness, fevers, blockage of fallopian tubes and eventually lead to infertility.
  • Trichomonas is a parasitic infection typically contracted and caused by having unprotected sex, with grayish frothy discharge.
  • Yeast Infections can have two kinds of discharge: either thick and clumpy like cottage cheese or thin, whitish discharge that causes intense itching and swelling.

Infections require medicated vaginal creams or antibiotic medications, but here are some tips for preventing vaginal infections that can lead to abnormal discharge:

  • Keep the outer vagina area clean by washing regularly with gentle, mild soap and warm water. DO NOT WASH INSIDE THE VAGINA WITH SOAP. Never use scented soaps, feminine products or douche. Also, avoid feminine sprays and bubble baths.
  • After using the restroom, always wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria from getting into the vagina and causing an infection. It is a good idea to have baby wipes or other 'wet' wipes near the toilet as they work much better than toilet paper for feminine cleansing.
  • Try to wear 100% cotton underpants; switch off wearing floss panties and regular panties, and avoid overly tight clothing all the time.

We are lucky enough to have WaterWorks, which is FDA cleared for feminine cleansing and to reduce vaginal odor problems. Everyone loves this, as it functions just like a douche but isn't. It is made of medical-grade stainless steel and uses no chemicals (only plain tap water) and it can safely remove vaginal odor with the first use.

ALSO, READ Vaginal discharge and it's meaning—the vagina can tell you a lot about your health.
Disclaimer: The information and opinions provided here are believed to be accurate and sound, based on the best judgment available to the authors, but it should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. Readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.
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