Vaginal Discharge Is a Sign of a Healthy Vagina
A normal, common bodily function that gets left out of mainstream discourse from the Indian sex education system, and largely from movies and television is — vaginal discharge. Pop culture discourse paints vaginal discharge as gross and something to be ashamed of (think: Obvious Child.) But vaginal discharge is completely normal, healthy even — and its texture and volume vary from vagina to vagina.
How and why does the color and texture of vaginal discharge change?
The discharge — which can manifest in different colors and density for different women — is a combination of the vaginal lining that has been shed, and the lubricants released by the vagina and vulva (outer region of women’s genitalia). The type and volume of the discharge, as well as the frequency with which it leaks out during a day, depends on what stage you’re in your menstrual cycle.
During menstruation, the discharge mixes with period blood, and isn’t noticeable. A few days after a period ends, the discharge can be brownish in color, due to its mixing with leftover blood from the uterus. Post-period, there may be a few days when no discharge is released, since most of the loose lining of the vagina has been shed during menstruation.
Halfway through the menstrual cycle, a few days before ovulation, the discharge will be white, cloudy, or slightly yellowish in color, and sticky, as your body prepares to release an egg. Right before and during ovulation, the discharge is clear and can be slippery — akin to egg whites.
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After ovulation and during the days leading up to your period, the cycle reverses — with the discharge slowly graduating to yellowish and cloudy again, followed by a few ‘dry’ days. There might be a slight increase in discharge right before the period starts, which will be white or cloudy in texture. These changes in discharge are perfectly normal and signs of a healthy vagina. An increase in the volume of discharge is also not a cause for concern.
What is a cause for concern, however, is the effect of some sexually-transmitted infections, such as trichomoniasis and gonorrhea, on vaginal discharge. The STDs can manipulate the color of the vaginal discharge to greenish or a pronounced yellowish one, with froth-like texture — again, a sign to get checked out, Dr. Leah Millheiser, director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University, told Bustle. “Rarely, a brownish or blood-tinged vaginal discharge could be a sign of cervical cancer,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
Should vaginal discharge smell?
Every vagina has a distinct smell, and so does its discharge. Any change in the usual smell of your vagina, say, a stronger fishy smell, might mean the sign of a bacterial infection, which should be checked out and can easily be treated by medication, Dr. Millheiser told Bustle. Any redness near the vaginal canal or in the color of the discharge, burning, or irritation at the time of discharge should also be fixed.
How to deal with vaginal discharge at home?
Slight variations in vaginal discharge are not a cause for concern, and any out-of-the-ordinary volume or texture should never be corrected with douches or other ‘vaginal health’ substances — they don’t work, and worse, they mess up the pH of the vagina and enable the creation of bad bacteria that can cause infection. To fix any itching from vaginal discharge at home, the Mayo Clinic advises using over-the-counter anti-fungal creams. To fix itching or inflammation of the vulva, cold compresses and ice packs can provide relief, and protection during sex can aid in the prevention or exacerbation of the irritation. For any other medication, needs or questions, especially if the problems persist despite home remedies, see your doctor.