Is my discharge normal? What does 'normal' even mean?

By Nikki Michelsen

Oct 3, 2022

Is my discharge normal? What does 'normal' even mean?
We need to talk about vaginal discharge
Having discharge is perfectly normal – in fact, it’s usually a sign that everything is working as it should be. We can think of our discharge as a little report card our body sends us to let us know if everything’s working as it should be in our reproductive systems or if there’s something we might wanna get checked out with a doctor. Unfortunately, lot’s of people think discharge is gross, disgusting, or embarrassing, which means we don’t talk about it enough and a lot of people are left feeling totally in the dark about whether or not their discharge is normal or if their discharge is a sign of infection or something to worry about. 
So what kind of discharge do we want to see in our pants and what kind of discharge do we want to get checked out? Let’s take a closer look at the differences between happy discharge and sad discharge. You there, cringing, I see you, I feel you, but read on. It’s time to destigmatise this bollocks once and for all.
The vagina has a precarious balance of bacteria, pH, and moisture. It’s a pretty sensitive soul and it doesn’t take much to upset this balance. Vaginal discharge is caused by mucus produced by the cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that leads into the vagina. This discharge keeps your vagina moist and helps to protect it from infection. It changes throughout your menstrual cycle and it’s perfectly normal to experience variation in amount of discharge, colour, and consistency throughout your cycle.
Your vagina is pretty good at clueing you in if something’s amiss. Your discharge could be trying to tell you something – it’s pretty helpful that way. Potential reasons for funky discharge include: Sexually Transmitted Diseases; Sexually Transmitted Infections; Bacterial Vaginosis; or a yeast infection.
Is my discharge normal?
When should you go to a doctor about your discharge? When does your discharge go from ‘normal’ – AKA, happy discharge that’s nothing to worry about – to a sign that something’s not quite right? Here’s what we should be looking out for:   
  • A change in your discharge colour – if your discharge turns grey, green, yellow, pink, brown, or blood-tinged 
  • You detect an unpleasant smell in your discharge such as a fishy or rotten smell that might even resemble that of meat that’s going bad (I know, I’m sorry, I hated writing it more than you hated reading it).
  • Your discharge changes in consistency, becomes lumpy and/or looks like cottage cheese.
  • There is a sudden and noticeable increase in the amount of discharge produced. Any sudden change related to your period or discharge – even if it seems harmless – is good to get checked out.
  • You experience additional symptoms like itching or soreness around the entrance of the vagina, pain when peeing, pelvic pain, and bleeding or spotting in between periods or after sex.
      If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, get your butt (or should I say vagina?) off to a doctor, ASAP rocky.
      What should my discharge look like?
      To put your mind at rest, here’s the lowdown on discharge that isn’t trying to send you a coded message, unless that message is ‘all good! Everything’s working as it should be!’ 
      • Discharge that is clear or white in colour.
      • Discharge that doesn’t smell like the fish and meat stands in your local supermarket. It’s important to note that some odour is perfectly normal – vaginas are not supposed to smell like roses and a slight ‘musty’, ‘sour’ smell is a sign of a healthy vagina.
      • The discharge is thick and sticky for most of the menstrual cycle.
      • It becomes clearer, wetter, and more slippery around the time of ovulation (which occurs at the midpoint of your cycle), although it’s worth noting that this might not happen if you’re using hormonal contraception.
            There’s a really insidious and damaging myth in society that women’s bodies are unclean and that we must endlessly be at war with them, buying perfumes and creams and razors in order to wrest them into submission. Don’t get me wrong, I want you to maintain your hygiene, if only for the benefit of your desk-mates. But this is a much less complicated task than mainstream media would have you believe; if you’re washing yourself and hopefully using deodorant – on your armpits, not your vagina – you’re probably fine. By using products intended to neutralise odour, inserting soaps, or blasting water up there (AKA, douching) you’re actually much more likely to harm your body than you are to make it ‘cleaner’.
            If you treat your vagina like a bloody temple and remain mindful of everything you put in there, you’ll significantly reduce the risks of upsetting the pH balance or contracting any of the aforementioned infections. That means no toxic tampons, no douching, no scented perfumes, chemical-filled wipes, and, for the love of good, no food stuffs (this one goes out to the woman I saw recently tweeting about spooning yogurt into her vagina. Please don’t do this, babe. I beg you.) If something’s wrong, your vagina will let you know, but make life easier for them, yeah? All they need is a wash with warm water.
            And finally, don’t feel embarrassed about going to the doctor about your discharge, period problems, or reproductive health in general. Doctors, Nurses, and Sexual Health professionals are just that – professionals. They don’t care, they won’t judge (and if they do, high-tail it outta there and get yourself a doctor who isn’t stuck in the 1950s), and trust me, they’ve seen it all.
            Ohne Team
            Photo by Evie Shaffer from Pexels