Healthy lives for young people
Vaginas & Vulvas

Discharge

The point of discharge is to keep the vagina moist, clean and healthy. It cleans the vagina by getting rid of dead cells and bacteria. So it is nothing to worry about, in fact it’s a sign everything is healthy and working as it should.

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It’s normal to get vaginal discharge throughout the month. The amount that comes out can vary, depending on where you’re at in your menstrual cycle. Sometimes discharge looks thick and white, and other times (when you’re releasing an egg, around ovulation) it looks stringy and clear. It can also have a yellowish look to it.

It’s normal for discharge to have a faint smell to it. Sometimes a discharge with a slight brown or pink colour can be a sign that your period is on its way. Or you can get a brownish discharge at the end of your period.

You may also notice more discharge when you’re feeling sexually excited (aroused). This is because when you become aroused the blood flow to the vaginal walls increases and causes lubrication to make the vagina wet.

If you haven’t started your periods yet, getting discharge is usually a sign that your periods will start in the near future.

There is no need to wash discharge away. Just make sure that you wash the vulva and surrounding area once a day with unperfumed soap.

Washing inside the vagina (also called douching) removes helpful bacteria and changes the acidity in the vagina, which can lead to the development of Thrush or Bacterial Vaginosis. Douching should be  avoided for this reason .

What’s not normal?

If you notice discharge that is not normal for you, you may have an infection. Changes in colour, smell, texture or quantity, itchiness, soreness or unusual pain or bleeding are all reasons to speak to a doctor.

  • Unpleasant or fishy smells could suggest bacterial vaginosis
  • Thick and white like cottage cheese could suggest thrush
  • Green, yellow or frothy could suggest trichomoniasis
  • If accompanied by pelvic pain or bleeding, this could suggest chlamydia or gonorrhoea
  • If accompanied by blisters or sores this could suggest genital herpes

See our page on Do I need to see a doctor? for more information and if you are worried, speak to a doctor or nurse.

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