First things first: it’s completely normal to experience vaginal discharge. These secretions serve a number of vital functions, including cleaning and moistening the vagina, helping to get rid of bad bacteria, and fighting infection.
Another important fact to remember is that the amount, consistency, colour and even the smell of your discharge may differ throughout your cycle each month. Getting to know your vaginal secretions and when they vary will help you to identify when something might be slightly off, so it’s a good idea to start paying attention.
Lastly, it’s critical to know that female discharge can also tell you very important things about your health, and can indicate when something is wrong.
What is considered ‘healthy’ vaginal discharge?
Regular female discharge can vary in consistency, colour and so on, but the following factors are all considered to be normal:
- Clear, white or off-white discharge, which may look more yellowish when dry
- Thin, sticky and elastic discharge, or thick and gooey secretions (you may experience both at different times of the month)
- An increase in discharge if you are ovulating, breastfeeding or sexually aroused
- Discharge after using the bathroom
- A mild odour
When should I worry about my vaginal discharge?
If you notice any of the following changes in your vaginal discharge, or you’re simply not sure if it’s always been this way, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor or clinic as soon as possible:
- Bloody, brown, cloudy or yellow discharge
- Frothy, yellow or greenish discharge with a bad (strong and/or ‘fishy’) smell
- Thick, white, lumpy, ‘cottage-cheese’-like discharge
- Itchy and/or burning discharge or sensations in your vagina
- Any pain, swelling or redness in or around your vagina
- Blood or spotting outside of your regular menstruation
What do changes to my vaginal discharge mean?
Unusual female discharge can indicate a number of issues, ranging from mild to serious, such as:
- Yeast infections
- Vaginal infections (such as bacterial vaginosis, which often causes that ‘fishy’ smell)
- Trichomoniasis (a very common STI caused by a parasite. It may also cause a strong odour and result in itching and pain during urination)
- An underlying health issue like diabetes or certain cancers
Should you notice any of the symptoms listed above, we strongly suggest you visit your doctor or clinic right away.
Visit your nearest Marie Stopes centre for women’s wellness check-ups, pap smears and more
If you have any health concerns or simply want to ensure you stay in tip-top shape, pop into your nearest Marie Stopes centre. We offer a range of sexual healthcare services, from women’s wellness check-ups and pap smears to STI and HIV screening and testing, all offered by highly qualified doctors and nurses.
Latest posts by Marie Stopes South Africa (see all)
- Body of Work: Abortion Conversations exhibition part 4: Nicola Harris - November 19, 2017
- Body of Work: Abortion Conversations exhibition part 3: Gillian Basson - November 15, 2017
- Body of Work: Abortion Conversations exhibition part 2: Kea Makhooane - November 12, 2017