If you have a vagina, you’re familiar with discharge. Discharge is a fluid produced by the vagina and cervix to help keep them clean. Discharge is 100% healthy and normal. It’s truly essential for vaginal health and a great indicator that your body is working well. There’s a lot of shame put on women for how “clean” their vaginas are and how they smell, and the discharge they produce. That’s a crock of bull! Your vagina should smell like a vagina, and you should definitely be producing discharge.
What is a healthy discharge?
Your discharge changes throughout your monthly cycle, indicating different things about your ovulation, as well as overall vaginal health. Because your discharge changes so much every month, it’s important to know what healthy discharge looks and smells like, and what discharge your body produces when you have an infection.
Normal, healthy discharge can be clear, whitish/cream-colored, or light yellow. Healthy discharge will have a slight smell to it, but this should be fairly mild and consistent throughout your cycle. Healthy discharge is also slightly sticky. Your discharge will become thin and more slippery when you are sexually aroused or ovulating.
Issues to watch for
If your discharge is white, thicker than usual, or clumpy and has an abnormally strong smell, you likely have an infection. White “cottage cheese” like discharge with a bad smell and irritated vulva/vagina is a tell-tale sign of a yeast infection.
Yellow-green discharge that is thick or clumpy indicates you have a sexually transmitted infection. It’s normal for your discharge to be slightly yellowish, but if it’s dark yellow or green, you probably have an STI.
Discharge that’s pink or red is related to your period. Pink discharge right before or right after your period is normal. Red is obviously your period blood. Pink discharge after penetrative sex can also be common due to irritation of the cervix. Although this can happen every once in a while, you shouldn’t be bleeding regularly after penetrative sex, and penetrative sex shouldn’t hurt, not only because you deserve pleasure, but also because this could be a sign of a greater issue. Consult your doctor if you bleed regularly after sex or experience pain with sex.
What does discharge do?
Discharge is such an important part of vaginal health. It literally cleans your vagina and lets you know that your body is working well. Because it’s so essential for vaginal health, it’s really important to stay in tune with your body and pay attention to your discharge. Tracking your cervical mucus can even be used as a form of fertility awareness for birth control. If you notice the consistency, color, or smell of your discharge change drastically, or if it matches any of the descriptions I listed above, go see a doctor. It’s your body’s way of telling you that you have an infection or some other problem.
Additionally, if you have any itchiness or irritation, redness around the vaginal opening, pain while you pee, or regular spotting after sex accompanying your changing discharge, go see your doctor!
It’s 2021, people — it’s time to stop feeling ashamed of our bodies, and it’s time to stop this idea that vaginas are smelly or dirty because they aren’t! Sure, discharge isn’t the most glamorous thing in the world, but it’s healthy, normal, and a sign your body is working well. And you should never be ashamed of that.