The vagina secretes a sticky fluid each day, which you may see on your panty. Did you know that vaginal discharge is actually a very normal thing? If you didn’t, you are not alone. A lot of women do not realize that normal vaginal discharge is a sign that your vagina is healthy and that the vagina’s internal cleaning system is doing its job. Here’s a quick lowdown of what vaginal discharge is, and what exactly is meant by “normal” vaginal discharge.
Why Does Normal Vaginal Discharge Occur?
The environment in your vagina is kept acidic by the pH levels created by good bacteria that naturally exist in the vagina. The acidic atmosphere is what protects your vagina from infections through the proliferation of bad bacteria and foreign bodies.
The vagina and the glands in your cervix produce a mucous. This mucous is what lubricates the vagina, maintains its delicate pH level, and cleans it on a daily basis by carrying out old cells from the lining of the vagina. The amount of cervical and vaginal mucous produced everyday will differ based on whether or not you are ovulating, the amount of estrogen in your body, the number of good and bad bacteria in your vagina, and several other factors.
Your vagina is a dark, warm, and damp place. This makes it an excellent environment for bacteria to thrive. In fact, there are millions of good bacteria and even fungii in your vagina which protect your genitals from infection, and which also keep it clean. The bacteria is present in different amounts. There is a very fine balance of different germs and chemicals in the vagina which are needed to keep it healthy. The mucous serves to maintain this fine balance.
So your normal vaginal discharge is simply a way for the body to flush out the impurities and bad germs from the vagina everyday using the mucous secreted by your cervix and vagina as a medium.
Who Experiences Normal Vaginal Discharge?
Women in their childbearing years will experience normal vaginal discharge every day. Young girls will begin to have normal vaginal discharge when they hit puberty, and it will carry on through adulthood right until menopause.
What is Considered Normal Vaginal Discharge?
There are quite a few factors that make up a normal vaginal discharge like the color, smell, and texture. Don’t be shy or afraid to touch your vaginal discharge and get better acquainted with what is normal for you. Let’s take a closer look at each one of the factors of normal vaginal discharge so you can get a full understanding of what a normal vaginal discharge should look, smell and feel like.
Amount of Normal Vaginal Discharge
If you were to measure it, normal vaginal discharge would amount to about 4 ml a day. But what is considered “normal” for a vaginal discharge will vary through your menstrual cycle, and the amount will vary from woman to woman too. You will have a larger amount of vaginal secretions when you are ovulating, and the amount will reduce on the days you are not ovulating. If you observe your vaginal discharge for three to four months, you will soon have a pretty clear idea of what is a normal vaginal discharge for you through your menstrual cycle. This is only, of course, if you are healthy and not pregnant. The amount of vaginal discharge for pregnant women will differ tremendously because of the drastic hormonal changes the pregnant body goes through.
Smell of Normal Vaginal Discharge
Normal vaginal discharge either has no smell at all or has a very faint hint of a sweetish or musky scent, but this differs from woman to woman. However, if you have been eating particularly spicy foods or foods that have strong odors like pineapple, the smell of your vaginal discharge will reflect that.
Another thing that will affect the smell of your normal vaginal discharge is your genital hygiene. As you may have guessed, poor genital hygiene will make your vaginal discharge stinky, not because of the discharge itself but because it mixes with the dirt or sweat on the surface of the skin and gives out an unpleasant odor. So do not consider it an abnormal vaginal discharge simply because of the smell. Have a bath or wash up, and put on clean panties first. The smell should ideally go back to your natural musky or sweet scent. But if there is a bad smell for more than three days even though you are maintaining good vaginal hygiene, then it may be abnormal and you should get checked by your gynecologist just to be on the safe side. Since a vaginal discharge with a bad smell is a symptom of vaginal infection or a sexually transmitted disease, don’t take it too lightly.
Texture of Normal Vaginal Discharge
If you felt normal vaginal discharge between your fingers, it would be thick and slightly sticky with a bit of a paste-like viscosity if you are at the beginning or at the end of your ovulation cycle. But when you are aroused or are ovulating, the texture of your normal vaginal discharge will change to being stretchy or stringy, and clear.
Color of Normal Vaginal Discharge
Normal vaginal discharge is clear. However, exposure to air can make it appear milky, almost white, and slightly yellow when it dries on your panties.
You may have a brownish vaginal discharge right after your period. This too is actually considered a normal vaginal discharge as it is simply a way for your body to clean up the vagina at the end of your period. The brown color is nothing more than old blood from the period which has mixed with the mucous and is being secreted from the body through a normal vaginal discharge.
Maintaining Normal Vaginal Discharge
The environment in the vagina has to be a certain way for it to remain healthy. Any interference with the delicate balance in the vagina can lead to several problems. An abnormal vaginal discharge is one of the first signs that something is not quite right with that balance, which reflects on what is going on in the rest of your body plus your lifestyle and habits. It is thus crucial that you do what you can to maintain a normal vaginal discharge. It is not difficult to do. All it requires is some common sense and adhering to a few simple rules as listed below.
- Maintain proper genital hygiene. Wash with only a mild soap and water. Do not use perfumes or perfumed products on your vagina.
- Make sure you pat your genital area dry after a wash or a bath. A damp vagina is a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Wipe front to back, from anus to vagina, after using the toilet.
- Wear clean cotton underwear. Change twice a day if your vaginal discharge is particularly heavy.
- Discover ways in which to manage stressful situations in your life. Stress and strong negative emotions can interfere with normal vaginal discharge.
- Research suggests that eating yogurt which has been fortified with live cultures can help to maintain good vaginal health, and thus maintain normal vaginal discharge.
- If you are diabetic, take measures to keep your blood sugar under control.
- Do not douche.
- Choose sanitary pads over tampons. Or at least wear pads more often than tampons if you can’t cut them out altogether.
- Avoid wearing pants that are too tight in the crotch.
- Use a condom every time you have sex. Infections can get transferred to the vagina via sex, and this can interfere with normal vaginal discharge.
- Avoid using lubricants which are oil based. Stick to water-based ones.
- Eat healthy foods and take supplements if needed since poor nutrition can sometimes affect normal vaginal discharge.