Vaginal discharge is nothing to worry about. In fact, it’s actually very beneficial because it helps keep your vaginal area clean and healthy.
WebMD explains, “Fluid made by glands inside the vagina and cervix carries away dead cells and bacteria. This keeps the vagina clean and prevents infection.”
While the amount and color of discharge can vary depending on your menstrual cycle, pregnancy and other factors, it is almost always considered “normal.” There are times, however, when discharge can become abnormal and you should see a doctor.
What Causes Vaginal Discharge?
Most women continually have some amount of vaginal discharge. It’s meant to protect you from developing an infection and keep the area clean. Regular vaginal discharge is usually white or clear and may increase in volume if you’re sexually aroused, ovulating, exercising or breastfeeding. It’s also common to have brown discharge right before or right after your menstrual cycle.
Vaginal discharge can also be caused by:
- Birth control
- Sexually transmitted infections or diseases (STIs or STDs)
- Yeast infections
When Is Vaginal Discharge Abnormal?
Some colors, odors and textures of vaginal discharge are abnormal. Luckily, it should be fairly obvious when something isn’t right down there.
Clumpy, white discharge that resembles cottage cheese usually signals a yeast infection. This will typically be accompanied by itching and/or pain in your vaginal area.
If your discharge is yellow or green with a foul smell, you may have trichomoniasis, a parasitic infection that’s usually passed through unprotected sex.
Gray, white or yellow discharge with an obviously fishy smell may signal bacterial vaginosis. This bacterial infection is very common and easily treated with antibiotics.
In rare cases vaginal discharge can signal more serious problems such as cervical cancer, so it’s important to talk to your gynecologist if you experience unusual discharge or have concerns about your vaginal health.
Further Reading: I Have a Yeast Infection. Should I Go to the Doctor?