It’s time for some real girl talk - vaginal discharge. It happens to all of us, some more than others, but how much is normal and how much signifies something is askew? The most basic answer is: it depends on your body because everyone is so different. Odor and color are two key indicators that can help differentiate between healthy discharge and discharge that signals an underlying issue.
What is Vaginal Discharge?
Discharge is a necessary and important component to any healthy reproductive system. The average woman produces a full teaspoon of vaginal discharge each day. You may not love it, but you need it. Discharge provides a whirlwind of benefits to your nether regions - it keeps you hydrated, helps shed dead skin cells, and even helps keep infections at bay thanks to its acidic qualities. Healthy vaginal discharge is made up of cervical mucus, dead cells, vaginal fluid, and bacteria.
Common Causes of Excessive Vaginal Discharge
There are many causes of vaginal discharge and you will likely notice fluctuations in the amount of discharge you have depending on what stage of life you are in, or even what time of the month it is. Ovulation, arousal, pregnancy, infections, and even allergies can all cause increased discharge. If your discharge is cloudy, has a foul smell, or looks atypical it might be trying to tell you that something is off.
Some common reasons women experience increased vaginal discharge:
A steamy moment will naturally create extra discharge and for good reason - you need lots of moisture down there to make sex more comfortable. Discharge caused by arousal is more watery and clear with a slippery texture.
Many factors can cause your hormones to fall out of whack, including poor diet, stress, or even an underlying medical condition. When your hormones change, so too can the amount of discharge you experience. Birth control pills and intrauterine devices can impact your hormone levels. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that an estimated 5 million women in America have PCOS, a condition that causes the body to produce an increased level of male hormones known as androgens. As a result, women with PCOS may experience irregular periods, more discharge, and lack of ovulation.
Allergies can make more than just your eyes water, they can lead to increased vaginal discharge too. Switching up the brand of body wash you use, underwear fabric, or even tampons might result in less discharge because, well, less allergies.
When Candida grows in the vagina, a yeast infection will ensue. Most women (70% to be exact) will develop a yeast infection at some point in their life, and it is usually accompanied by extreme vaginal itching and a chunky odorless discharge often compared to cottage cheese.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
BV is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina and is most likely to impact females between 15 and 44 years old. If discharge is gray or cloudy it may be caused by BV; many women also report a fishy odor, painful urination, and a burning or itching sensation.
Is it Normal to Have a lot of Discharge Every Day?
It is normal to have around 1 teaspoon of discharge everyday, and while a teaspoon doesn’t sound like much, when spilled in your underwear it can look like a lot and feel pretty moist. You know your body better than anyone. If you normally have a lot of discharge and there are no underlying conditions, pain, smells, etc., it is likely perfectly normal for your body. If it is bothering you, it never hurts to discuss it with your doctor just to ensure everything is OK.
What Should Healthy Discharge Look Like?
Normal, healthy discharge should be clear, odorless, and fairly consistent depending on what time of the month it is in your cycle. The thickness and texture of your discharge may vary from thin and watery to thick and gooey.
Hormones change and fluctuate throughout your cycle and this can cause an increase in vaginal discharge, especially during ovulation. At the end of your period, it is normal to experience brown, red, or even black vaginal discharge carrying out the last bits of blood shed by your uterus.
Tips on How to Manage Excessive Vaginal Discharge
Choose breathable period underwear
Your privates are begging you for a breathable pair of panties, on and off your period. Certain fabrics are better at supporting vaginal health than others. That’s where our Proof® period underwear comes into play. It is buttery soft, breathable and comfy. Plus, our moisture-wicking liner helps you feel dry.
Avoid wearing tight clothing
Tight clothing, especially when you are sweating or in a hot environment, can lead to an increased risk for infection and excess discharge.
Practice good hygiene and avoid douches
Always wipe front to back, and use unscented soap and water to wash daily. Avoid using douches as they irritate the vagina and kill both bad and good bacteria.
Avoid hygiene products with heavy fragrances
We live in a fragrance-infused world, but fragrances can be harmful especially to your more sensitive regions. Ditch the scents and get back to basics to reduce allergic reactions that can lead to increased discharge and irritation.
When to See a Doctor for Vaginal Discharge
It might be time to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing excessive vaginal discharge that is abnormal in texture, odor, or appearance. Vaginal infection is often accompanied by discharge that is green, gray, yellow, or has a foul odor.
In addition, if you are experiencing any itching, burning or pain when you use the bathroom or have sexual intercourse you should make an appointment with your doctor.