Vaginal discharge is, quite simply, fluid secretion from the vagina. Most women regularly experience some form a vaginal discharge, in varying amounts, from the onset of puberty (7-12 years), through menopause (50+ years). Despite its commonness, the embarrassment that shrouds this topic means that it rarely receives the attention it deserves. Here are a few things that every women needs to know when it comes to vaginal discharge.
1. Why It Exists
Vaginal discharge is one of your body’s ways to keep your vagina healthy and clean. It consists mostly of mucus, which is secreted by the cervix for the purpose of bacter bacteria, some cells of the vaginal walls and water. It is also produced to provide natural lubrication for sexual intercourse.
2. What it is Supposed to Look Like
Healthy vaginal discharge is clear or white, odorless and fluid. Normal discharge does not have any symptoms/ feelings of discomfort. Though the amount of discharge varies significantly between different individuals and between different stages of the menstrual cycle, most women secrete about 4 ml (about one teaspoon) of fluid a day.
3. Don’t Douche!
Many women may try to treat vaginal discharge by douching. This in fact, is unhealthy for your vagina. Douching can remove healthy bacteria that help prevent against infection. It can also lead to a number of other health problems.
4. Use Panty Liners Carefully
Panty liners are a convenient way of dealing with discharge, but they shouldn’t be worn round the clock. Their plastic backing resists air flow, and retains heat and sweat which may lead to bacterial of fungal infections.
5. Discharge Changes throughout the Menstrual Cycle and During Sexual Arousal
The volume of discharge tends to increase drastically during ovulation and sexual arousal. Its texture also tends to become thinner and stretchier. This occurs in order to facilitate the travel of the sperm up to the egg. If you’re wishing to expand your family, pay attention to these changes in discharge as they indicate increased fertility.
It is also normal for clear, watery discharge to occur after exercise.
6. Dark Colored Discharge Contains Blood
This is usually not something to be worried about. It’s perfectly normal for small quantities of blood to be present in discharge, especially after menstruation. If this occurs too often, however, you may want to consult a physician.
7. Discharge is an Important Indication of Vaginal Health
If you experience pain or irritation, or your discharge is clumpy, or strangely colored, chances are you have a vaginal infection. Consult a doctor immediately if this occurs.
8. Birth Control may Affect Discharge
Women on the combined oral contraceptive pill generally experience a change in discharge volume and sometimes texture. In most cases, this is nothing to be worried about.
9. Avoid Using Scented Soaps Down There
Discharge is a natural cleaning mechanism for your vagina. Using scented soaps may upset the ph balance in your vagina. Redbook recommends using a mild baby shampoo when cleaning your vagina and making sure to gently wash between the outer and inner lips, where discharge usually gets stuck.
10. Discharge may be Used in Cancer Detection
Secretions contain small amounts of cervical, vaginal and endometrial cells. Research is currently underway as to how to identify cancerous cells using samples from vaginal discharge.
11. Pubic Hair Is Helpful
Pubic hair plays a role in keeping vaginal discharge away from skin, thereby avoiding irritation. It also serves as a protection against bacteria.