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Vaginal Discharge – What’s Normal and When Should I worry?

Vaginal Discharge – What’s Normal and When Should I worry?

One of the most common complaints in gynecology and primary care clinics is vaginal discharge. Whether it’s too much, too little, clumpy, smelly, or strange in appearance – discharge can be confusing and worrisome, and everyone has questions. 

Normal Vaginal Discharge

To understand discharge, it’s also important to understand female anatomy. The vagina is a canal which leads from the uterus to the outside world. At the top of the vagina is the cervix, while the lower end of the vagina leads to the vulva and labia.

Vaginal discharge is a fluid produced by the uterus, cervix, and vagina. It contains vaginal skin cells and bacteria, it’s acidic in nature, and it is normally clear or white in appearance. It is typically normal to have about one-half to one teaspoon of white or clear, thick, mucus-like discharge per day. But keep in mind that each woman’s body is very different! It’s possible that your body produces more or less discharge than this per day. It’s also important to note that the amount of normal discharge can vary for a variety of reasons throughout the month. You may experience extra normal discharge as you approach ovulation (middle of your menstrual cycle), with pregnancy, or with use of oral contraceptives. Diet, sexual activity, medications, and stress can also alter the amount and character of normal vaginal discharge. Normal discharge can even be yellow, have a slight smell, and be mildly irritating because of the acidity. 

When should I call my gynecologist?

So we’ve discussed normal discharge. But when should you visit your gynecologist? The first warning signs of a vaginal infection are vaginal itching, pain, burning, redness, abnormal bleeding/spotting, or any type of strange new bump around the genitals. If you have these symptoms with a change in vaginal discharge, that is a sign you may be experiencing a vaginal infection. Based on what type of vaginal infection you are experiencing – whether sexually transmitted, yeast infection, or bacterial vaginosis… each has characteristic changes in vaginal discharge as well. Some common changes in discharge that are seen with vaginal infections are strong smell, clumpy appearance, green color, frothy look, or blood-tinge just to name a few. 

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