Decoding Vaginal Discharge
Also known as cervical fluid, vaginal discharge is mucus that is released from the cervix and out the vagina. There’s generally no need to worry about vaginal discharge as it is a normal and healthy part of every woman’s cycle. Sometimes, however, abnormal types of mucus can show up, and this should be taken as a sign that something may be off within the body. Here’s your guide to deciphering and decoding your vaginal discharge, and what your body is trying to tell you.
Discharge & the Menstrual Cycle
You will notice that the type of vaginal discharge you experience varies throughout the month, changing naturally alongside the different phases of your menstrual cycle. The discharge changes because it actually serves a purpose at each stage.
Follicular phase - this is the phase during and after menstruation (days 1-14 of your cycle, with day 1 being the first day you get your period). Just after menstruation, there is often not much mucus produced and the vagina may have a slightly dry sensation. After a few days, however, cervical fluid will be produced that is a dry and toothpaste-like texture. By the end of this phase, the fluid will become creamier, with a lotion-like consistency.
Ovulation - this is a short phase (roughly days 14-16 of your cycle) and is when the body becomes fertile, aka when you can get pregnant. More cervical mucus is produced at this time and it becomes more watery, clear, and slippery - it can be stretchy between your fingers. The cervical fluid takes this form in order to create an environment to help sperm swim and survive.
Luteal phase - this phase (days 15-28 of your cycle) is after ovulation when the body is no longer fertile, and it leads all the way up to menstruation and the beginning of a new cycle. At this time mucus may be dry, sticky, or there may be none at all.
As time goes on, you will become more familiar with your menstrual cycle and vaginal discharge. You can use the presence of cervical mucus as a guide for where you are at in your cycle and as an indicator to help you either plan or prevent pregnancy by having or avoiding sex a few days before, a few days after, as well as during your days of ovulation.
Although vaginal discharge follows a general cycle as mentioned above, every woman and cycle is different. Below is a quick guide for the common types of discharge and what it can signify.
White: is common at the beginning and end of the cycle and is often thick in consistency.
Clear and stretchy: indicates ovulation & fertility.
Clear and watery: can occur at various times of the cycle.
Yellow or green: may indicate an infection (such as yeast or candidiasis), especially if the mucus is thick, resembles cottage cheese, or is foul in odor.
Brown: may occur right after menstruation as the uterus is still being cleared of old blood.
Spotting blood or brown discharge: may occur mid-cycle during ovulation. This could also indicate early pregnancy or an irregular menstrual cycle.
Note: if you have spotting when you should have your normal flow and you have recently had unprotected sex, there could be a chance of pregnancy and you should take a pregnancy test.
Normal vs. Abnormal Discharge
Discharge can be unique for every woman, but in general, normal vaginal discharge is about 1 teaspoon a day and generally transparent, sometimes white, thin to thick in texture, and odorless. Discharge is formed by the normal bacteria and fluids of the vagina.
Normal discharge can be affected by various internal and external factors, such as:
health conditions such as diabetes
birth control use
Symptoms of abnormal discharge include:
discoloration - yellow, green
cottage cheese-like consistency
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms of abnormal discharge, seek the advice of your health care provider or reach out to a holistic practitioner for support.