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Is your vaginal discharge normal?

Periods 101
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Is your vaginal discharge normal?

A question we’ve all asked. There is really no such thing as “normal” when it comes to discharge. We all have slightly different flows, colours & consistencies to each other and throughout our menstrual cycle & the phases of our lives. However, it is essential we get an idea of what normal is to our own bodies and what healthy discharge looks like, as discharge is a key indicator of sexual & menstrual health.

Remember, discharge is a completely normal & natural process that your body uses to keep your vagina clean & healthy, whether you have it every day or occasionally.

How much vaginal discharge is normal and does this change throughout your cycle?

During the menstrual phase of your cycle where you are bleeding, discharge typically tends to be more dry and sticky, or you may not even get any discharge at all. This is usually because the discharge mixes with the blood flow, so it’s harder to notice. You may also get some brown discharge here and there, but that is usually your uterus getting rid of any old blood from your period.

Discharge typically becomes more milky and white during the follicular phases, which are the days leading up to ovulation. Discharge can often be thick, creamy and cloudy in colour. This is because your oestrogen levels begin to rise so your cervix produces more mucus. The female body is so clever, that when you’re still outside of the fertile window, your vaginal mucus deliberately thickens to intercept any sperm attempting to reach the uterus.

Shortly after ovulation, you may notice a change again, with your discharge going back to a drier stickier consistency. While this is a typical cycle of vaginal discharge, don’t forget that this can be different for everyone. Particularly, if you are on the hormonal contraception pill your vaginal discharge will differ as your hormones are more of a constant than those not on hormonal contraception.

Vaginal discharge changes throughout your life, here’s what you should expect…

As we go through our lives what is “normal” can change quite radically, particularly as our bodies rapidly adjust to major events like puberty, pregnancy and menopause. Fluctuations in your normal vaginal discharge throughout the different stages of your life are to be expected and can have a whole variety of causes. 

Vaginal discharge before your first period

If you haven’t had your period yet then it’s good to be aware of what’s coming up - check out our blog ‘What to expect when you’re expecting your first period’ to prepare! One of the main things to keep an eye out for is discharge. All the hormonal changes can affect your body, causing whitish either thin and sticky or thick and gooey discharge. A healthy discharge smell is mild and musky, not unpleasant. 

You may also have tender breasts, cramping and breakouts . The discharge is likely to occur before your first period, but it depends on you and your body. 

Vaginal discharge during pregnancy

You may also notice a change in your discharge when you become pregnant. We know that our discharge changes from time to time, and during pregnancy it's normal to have a lot more discharge than you did before. In fact, vaginal discharge helps prevent any infection travelling up from the vagina to the womb – so it’s definitely a good thing!

When you’re just about ready to pop (mentally & physically!), the amount of discharge increases and in the last week or so of pregnancy, you may notice your discharge is a sticky jelly-like pink mucus. This is a good sign that your body is preparing for birth – scary, but exciting, right!?

It’s important to note that if you do notice that your discharge is a green or yellow colour, smells strange and your vagina feels itchy or sore when you pee then you could have a vaginal infection, so should call your midwife and seek medical advice immediately.

These things happen and are usually fine, but it's always best to get it checked!

Vaginal discharge during postpartum

As we know, pregnancy changes your body in many ways and unfortunately that doesn’t stop when the baby is born! Again, your discharge can change postpartum so here’s what you can expect. You may begin to shed the superficial mucous membrane that lines your uterus during the pregnancy. This means that your vaginal discharge may be made up of this membrane and blood for a couple weeks after. It can be red and often heavy for the first few days so don’t panic and it will become watery, changing from a pinkish brown to a yellowish white.

Be sure to seek medical advice if you have concerns with the heaviness of your discharge/bleeding postpartum as it's always best to be able to relax!

Vaginal discharge in perimenopause

Perimenopause is the time leading towards menopause and is usually recognised by a year without periods. Your oestrogen levels are constantly changing during this time so your menstrual cycle can hop from one month to the next. 

Changes in vaginal discharge may occur as your body adjusts to longer, shorter, or even skipped periods. As perimenopause progresses and oestrogen levels drop, you may experience vaginal dryness and a change in discharge to be thin and watery or thick with a brownish colour. The closer you get to the menopause, the less discharge your body will produce.

Vaginal discharge after menopause

When the menopause is over, vaginal discharge changes radically. Many women experience both less and slightly abnormal discharge, primarily caused by a drop in oestrogen levels causing the vagina to become drier, and often inflamed or irritated.

What your vaginal discharge should (and shouldn't) look like

So now you know about the various types of discharge throughout phases of life, but it’s important to be aware of the different types that can occur at any stage. Keep an eye on the colour, consistency and smell of your vaginal discharge.

Here’s what to look out for: textured or unusually thinner consistency, significant or unexpected amount of discharge and a fishy or different smell. Green, grey, yellow or brown discharge may also be a sign of infection. Abnormal discharge may be a sign of bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections or potentially an STI so be weary of these signs. 

Your discharge changes so frequently due to different things throughout your life so if you’re ever in doubt, seek medical advice for reassurance. It is critical to listen to your own body- you know it best!

How to deal with vaginal discharge stains

Discharge can also look white or yellowish when it dries on your underwear. If you’re worried about period blood or discharge staining your underwear then check out our remüvie™ Blood, Bladder & Baby Stain Remover! If you are continually worried about staining your underwear, we recommend trying our 100% biodegradable panty liners – perfect for reassuring you while you go about your day!

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