Vaginal discharge is something most of us rarely talk about – unless you’re a gynecologist like me – but it is a normal part of owning a vagina. Vaginal discharge comes from sloughed off skin cells that line the vagina mixed with secretions from the glandular tissue and bacteria. It is part of the way the vagina cleans itself and stays healthy.
But besides mostly being normal did you know your discharge can actually tell you some things about your body? Like…
If your discharge is less than usual for you or if it becomes thicker than normal (without odor or itching) this can mean you need more water in your life. Just like our urine looks more concentrated when we are dehydrated, same goes for your discharge
If you aren’t on a form of birth control that prevents ovulation, you should notice changes in your discharge depending on where you’re at in your cycle. Immediately after your period ends you may have pink or brown tinged discharge. After this discharge almost goes away all together and the vagina can feel a bit dry. As you are getting close to ovulation you should notice a clear watery discharge that is sometimes described like egg whites. After ovulation the discharge becomes thicker and creamy from the rise in progesterone until it’s time for your period again.
“You have an infection!”
Vaginal discharge from an infection usually has an odor or causes itching or irritation. It can be normal for your discharge to change color depending on a variety of factors – but generally if it is thicker and clumpy like cottage cheese – it could mean you have a yeast infection. If it is green and frothy it could be a sign of an infection called trichomonas. Or if it is thin, white, increased in amount and has a fishy odor, it could mean bacterial vaginosis – an imbalance of bacteria.
“You’re about to start your period”
Vaginal discharge before a period starts can have a brown tinge, pink tinge or even orangish tinge. If you notice this for a day or two (often accompanied by PMS symptoms) you can pretty accurately predict your period is coming. However, if your discharge goes on for several days like this, particularly if you are someone who isn’t having periods anymore – this is a reason to see your doctor to have it checked out.
Yep, even pregnancy has a specific discharge associated with it. Increased discharge in early pregnancy is due to the rise in estrogen and progesterone that occur. This discharge tends to be increased in amount, slightly thicker and creamy.
See how cool the vagina is!? It’s like a self-cleaning magic fortune teller.
For more info about the awesome vagina? – check out these great posts! Common reasons for a missed period, Vaginal seeding and the microbiome, What happens to my vagina when I deliver a baby?, 3 Common Vaginal Infections – what do you need to know?, Top 10 Ways to Keep Your Vagina Happy and Healthy, Yeast infections and What to do about them!
Dr. Quimby is the co-founder of FemEd – a female health education platform that educates females of all ages about their bodies.
She is also a former professor at USC Keck school of Medicine where she led the OBGYN clerkship. She is passionate about education and empowering her patients and her students through knowledge and shared decision making.
She is currently a full time OBGYN at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles.
Dr. Quimby has received accolades for teaching and leadership. She has been named Top Doctor by both Pasadena and Los Angeles Magazines. She is a regular speaker throughout the community giving talks to both the public and other physicians. She has contributed to LAist, SELF, and several other news media sources.
Her special interests include: preconception counseling and improving sexual health
When she’s not educating the public on all things female health she can be found traveling with her 2 young daughters and ever supportive husband.