When we're not menstruating, we have vaginal discharge — when do our vaginas ever get a break? Even though "discharge" is a trigger word for many (sorry, not sorry), it's a completely natural and normal occurrence for women. In fact, it's a way your vagina is able to self-cleanse and keep itself lubricated, according to Jessica Shepherd, MD, MBA, ob-gyn, women's health expert, and U by Kotex partner.
Although most women can live harmoniously with their discharge, it's recommended that you wear cotton underwear and avoid tight clothing on heavier days. Another great option is to wear a light liner to keep any moisture from seeping through garments.
Wondering if yours is normal? Dr. Shepherd decodes by color and consistency below.
- Clear: "Clear discharge that is watery is normal and can occur at any time during the month; discharge that is thicker and more mucus-like is a sign of ovulation and also normal."
- Brown: "Brown discharge, especially at the end of your cycle, is typically normal since late discharge can appear brown due to old blood vs. red."
- Yellow or green: "A yellow or green discharge, especially when it's thick, chunky, or accompanied by an unpleasant odor, should be looked at by a healthcare provider to rule out any infections or sexually transmitted diseases."
- Pink: "Pink discharge between periods is caused by a small amount of blood being expelled by the body and mixing with your cervical fluid to give it the pinkish look. If this is consistent, please seek advice from a healthcare provider."
As mentioned, white to clear discharge that's fluid-like and stretchy isn't a cause for concern. Dr. Shepherd says if you notice any abnormalities in color, consistency, or the amount or you're experiencing itching or other signs of discomfort, you should consult your healthcare provider.
The thickness and amount can also vary during certain times of the month due to hormone fluctuation. "When your body is preparing for ovulation, estrogen levels rise and you may see an uptick in cervical mucus," she said. "This can look white, yellow, or cloudy. The closer you get to ovulation, the more your estrogen levels rise, and the thinner and slipperier this discharge will typically become. After ovulation, estrogen levels drop, your discharge can get thicker and cloudier, and you may even have a few dry days. Then, you get your period, restarting the cycle."