Is my discharge normal?

by Jun 18, 2024Blog, Menstrual Health Education

Lucy Wilkinson, Period Pro from Florida State University College of Medicine

Lucy Wilkinson, Period Pro

Vaginal discharge is not a common topic of conversation due to the long-standing stigma and taboo that is attached to the female body. However, half of the world’s population experiences discharge on most days during the reproductive years, so there are a lot of people who can benefit from honest and accurate information about it. 

Unfortunately, many girls and women receive messages that their discharge or their vulvas should smell like roses or cucumbers, but all that does is create shame. The reality is that our bodies create fluids and have odors that are normal, and there’s nothing weird about it. In fact, it’s how the vagina cleans itself. Just like earwax protects and moisturizes ears, and saliva keeps mouths healthy, discharge is a normal part of having a healthy vagina. 

Vaginal discharge typically begins in early puberty. It is a creamy consistency, but it can also be clear, watery, and stretchy around ovulation. In regards to color, it should be somewhere on the spectrum of clear to white to yellow. As discharge dries, though, it may look a bit darker, and the texture can become crusty or stiff. At times, discharge can appear pinkish or brown. That typically happens right before or after a period when a little blood mixes with the discharge.

Discharge also has a NORMAL, mild smell somewhere between sweet to musky, but it is not a bad odor! 

Everyone with a vagina has discharge and it’s important to pay attention to what’s normal for you to notice any changes that might signal a problem. There are different things that can cause changes in the color, odor or consistency of discharge.  Some are related to sex and some are not. Anytime you have a noticeable change in discharge (especially if you have had sex), it’s important to talk with your doctor or health center about the changes. 

The most common signs of a vaginal infection or conditions that may require treatment include the following:

  • Vaginal or vulvar itching, burning or irritation
  • Discharge that has changed color – especially if it’s greenish, grayish
  • Discharge that is thick or clumpy
  • An increase in the amount of discharge
  • Discharge that has a strong, unpleasant, or fishy odor even after washing

If you experience any of the above symptoms, it’s important to see your healthcare provider to receive testing or treatment if indicated.

In summary, vaginal discharge is a natural process that helps keep the vagina clean. It can differ in color, consistency, and smell. Regularly monitoring your discharge is important so you can notice any changes that might require a consultation with your doctor.

Remember, your body is beautiful and your vulva is amazing!