Questions you’ve always wanted to ask your OB/GYN (but were afraid to ask): Vaginal Discharge

November 12, 2010

We’ve all had questions related to OB/GYN issues that we didn’t feel like actually asking anyone–even our doctor.  We, the OB/GYN doctors at Women’s Health Associates, decided to bypass the question asking and simply address several sensitive questions by giving a series of presentations in the Kansas City area.  We found that women were very receptive to this topic and wanted to hear the answers as long as they didn’t have to ask the questions.  Now we’re addressing the same questions through blog entries.  You’ll get the facts you need without having to ask the questions!       

What is vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge is a fluid secreted by glands in the cervix and vagina.  The female body produces vaginal discharge to clean the vagina, keep it lubricated, and help keep it free from infection. 

What should vaginal discharge look like?

Vaginal discharge varies in color and consistency from person to person, and it varies for each woman from day to day based on hormone cycle and activity level.  Normal vaginal discharge is clear, whitish, or light yellow.  It may be a watery liquid, a thicker paste-like substance, or sticky and stringy mucus.  It’s a good idea to get to know what is normal for you.  If you notice abrupt changes in the consistency and amount of discharge, or if you experience green, red, brown, or grey discharge, you should make an appointment with your doctor.              

How much vaginal discharge is normal?

The amount of vaginal discharge varies from woman to woman and even day to day throughout the menstrual cycle.  The normal amount should be between none and a teaspoon of vaginal discharge each day.  In other words, you should not need to wear a pantyliner.  Some women have no vaginal discharge or very little, and that is ok.

Why does the amount of vaginal discharge vary on different days?

The amount of vaginal discharge is influenced by the hormone cycle in a woman’s body.   

A woman tends to have more vaginal discharge right before the start of her period.  Many women also notice an increased amount of vaginal discharge mid-cycle, when they ovulate.  In addition, women tend to have more vaginal discharge during pregnancy.   

What should discharge smell like, and what should I do if it smells bad?

Normal vaginal discharge has a faint, non-offensive odor or no odor at all.  Vaginal discharge that does have a strong, offensive odor may indicate a yeast or bacterial infection or a sexually transmitted disease.  If you notice that your discharge has a strong odor, you should make an appointment with your doctor.  While several medicines are available over the counter, it’s important to be evaluated so you can make sure you are treating the actual problem. 

We hope you find the above information about vaginal discharge helpful.  Over the next several blog entries, we’ll be addressing many more OB/GYN issues you may have questions about.  Check back to learn the answers without having to ask the questions!