If you’re a woman who has wondered whether your vaginal discharge is normal, you’re not alone. Read on to learn the characteristics of normal discharge, understand why it may change and get tips for good hygiene.
Normally present bacteria create an acidic environment in healthy vaginas. This discourages infections and secretions help to cleanse the area, much like how saliva cleans the mouth.
All women have some vaginal discharge, though the amount varies. Discharge changes with the menstrual cycle; it’s typically thicker and whiter before and after a period, and clearer and more slippery closer to ovulation. Oftentimes, pregnant women have increased discharge, while menopausal women experience less discharge and vaginal dryness. Stress, medications like hormonal birth control, and sexual arousal can affect the amount of discharge.
Here are some qualities that may not be normal:
- Greatly increased amount of discharge
- Unusual color or texture change
- Atypical odor
- Irritation, rash or soreness
- Burning during urination
- Irregular vaginal bleeding
- Pelvic pain or fever
- Pain with sexual activity
See your health care provider if you are concerned about your vaginal discharge. Even if you feel fine, seek care if you suspect you may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection.
Practice good hygiene to decrease vulvar irritation:
- Bathe daily with mild soap and warm water. Use hypoallergenic soaps instead of perfumed soaps. For sensitive skin, try Dove or Basis.
- You may try mild 1% hydrocortisone ointment, not cream, twice a day if you have irritation. Apply a small amount to the affected area.
- Wear all-cotton underwear or underwear with cotton crotches.
- Change underwear and hose every day.
- Avoid wearing hose or tights for too many hours, especially in hot, humid weather.
- If you swim or exercise, change out of damp clothes as soon as possible.
- Use deodorant-free white toilet paper to avoid potentially irritating perfume and dye.
- Avoid feminine hygiene products like sprays and powders, as well as bath additives like bubbles and oils.
- Avoid douching. It’s not necessary.
- Use deodorant-free sanitary pads or tampons.
- Use dye- and scent-free laundry detergent, and avoid fabric softeners.
- Avoid spermicidal foams, gels and creams.
- If you tend to get yeast infections when you take antibiotics, use anti-yeast cream while you are taking antibiotic medicine.
- Have only one sexual partner who is not sexually active with anyone else, and practice safe sex.
- Use a condom during sexual intercourse.
- Wipe from front to back after using the restroom.