Your vaginal discharge could be giving you important clues about your health.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on December 10, 2021. It has since been updated.
While you might be familiar with how the regularity of your monthly menstrual cycle can be indicative of your reproductive health, there is one more factor that can give you insights into your health - vaginal discharge.
And those stains on your underwear can prompt an important question. "Is this normal?" Well, depending on the color of that discharge, you can find out whether it is and whether a visit to the doctor is needed because it can be a warning signal that something is happening to your body. And maybe not in a good way.
It is one of the most important factors that inform you whether your reproductive organs are in good health or not, says WebMD. Glands in the vagina and cervix produce a fluid, which is the discharge, whose function is to clean the organs and get rid of the bacteria and dead cells to prevent any infections. It's similar to tearing up, which cleans your eyes and keep them hydrated.
A healthy vagina has certain bacteria that is beneficial and produces a normal whitish color that usually begins around your periods, when you're breastfeeding or are sexually aroused. If the color and smell of it starts to change outside of your menstrual cycle, then it can be your body telling you that something is not right. And if you see these five colors of discharge when you're not menstruating, a visit to the doctor is required:
1. Clear white
This color of discharge is normal and it indicates that your periods are about to start or that you are sexually aroused, according to Medical News Today. In the case of the latter, it helps provide sufficient lubrication to reduce friction during sexual intercourse. Additionally, it's a sign that your vagina has performed its self-cleaning function.
2. Dark red or brownish
While period blood is a normal red, if you have a dark red or brown discharge, you might be suffering from cervical or endometrial cancer. However, this isn't a very common symptom of the cancer, but it is essential to have yourself scanned especially if it is accompanied by abnormal vaginal bleeding in between cycles.
Though this color of discharge could be a result of some of the food you might have eaten over the week, suggests Healthline, there are a few diseases this could be a sign of:
- Yellow discharge with foul, fishy odor - bacterial vaginosis. Symptoms accompanying this would be itching or burning sensations as well as redness and swelling in your vagina and vulva.
- Cloudy yellow discharge - gonorrhea. It is a sexually-transmitted disease more commonly known as "the clap." Symptoms accompanying this would be bleeding in between period cycles, pelvic pain and urinary incontinence.
- Frothy yellow discharge - trichomoniasis. This too is an STD whose symptoms are pain and itching during urination.
If you see grey color discharge, it could point towards bacterial vaginosis especially if you find your private parts itchy or burning. This condition occurs when the protective bacteria present in your vagina is lacking. Due to this imbalance, you might even notice a fishy smell coming from the discharge. Cleveland Clinic states that nearly 30% of women who are of child-bearing age have this infection.
5. Creamy white
This kind of discharge could be an indication of yeast infection, says Unity Point Health. If you notice symptoms such as swelling and pain around the vulva, itching, and painful sexual intercourse, you need to visit a doctor to have this condition properly diagnosed.
Depending on the discharge you see and what diagnosis your doctor gives you, you can have it treated accordingly.
These few simple methods can keep your discharge normal and vagina healthy:
- Avoid douching or using chemical products near your vagina, especially after intercourse
- Wash your vagina daily with a gentle, organic soap and warm water
- Wipe from front to back every time to keep bacteria from the anus away from your vagina
- Use condoms to prevent STDs
- Have yourself and your partner checked for infections before engaging in intercourse