is my discharge normal? what does 'normal' even mean?
7th July 2021
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.
Photo by Evie Shaffer from Pexels
related articles | we think you’ll love
how does your menstrual cycle affect your sleep?
make yourself a cuppa warm chamomile lavender tea and get cozy - we're diving into the reasons why your sleep patterns might fluctuate throughout your cycle.
Seven Mindful and Holistic Practices to Support You Throughout Your Menstrual Cycle
from reiki to acupuncture to EFT (emotional freedom technique) - we've rounded up seven of our favourite alternative practices to help keep us steady and grounded throughout our cycle.
slaying your period with chloe caldwell
author of The Red Zone: A Love Story discusses life with PMDD, the most rewarding part about writing a book about her period, and why it’s so critical to speak openly about often overlooked women’s health issues.
let's ask a mum: jade discusses guiding her daughter through her period, living with endometriosis, and more
we caught up with the fabulous jade - a married mother of two girls in her mid-30s - who spoke to us about guiding her daughter through her period, living with endometriosis, and the advice she wish she had gotten as a young girl.
slaying your period with chiyo
It's time you met "The Prinx of Provocation." Chiyo is one of the UK’s leading Drag Kings, the first Trans person to ever compete for Mr Gay UK, and an established model represented by WIMP.
tap into the power of the full moon with these easy rituals
the full moon is the perfect time to reset and release anything that no longer serves you - from limiting beliefs to toxic habits. we rounded up a few of our fave full-moon rituals to harness the sky’s potent energy tonight.
my period is so irregular - what could be going on?
hormonal imbalances, birth control, rapid changes in weight... read a few of the potential reasons why your period may be acting a little rogue.
why period education is for everyone - including cisgender men
the exclusion of men from proper period education perpetuates society's insidious taboo against menstruation. it's time to embrace a more nuanced, thorough sex education curriculum for all.
Talking Periods, Nudity, and Art with Erotic Artist Neen Sever
"Before my period, my body feels like it doesn’t belong to me." Nude model, photographer, director, musician, and writer Nina Sever chats to us about periods, nudity, and expressing their sexuality and identity through erotic art.
slaying your period with imogen ivy
meet the iconic dancing queen, curve model, and endlessly talented ohne babe: imogen ivy. we talk dance, period hacks, and advice for boosting your self-confidence.
slaying your period with lucy evers
we chatted with the 'wholesome period vocal loud mouth and menstruating musician' (her iconic words) about being a woman in the music industry, tearing down period stigmas and her favourite cycle care.
Closing the Gender Healthcare Gap in the UK
Research has found that there's a major disparity in healthcare services for women - so what's being done to bridge the gap?
what to pack to your laparoscopy
to ease pre-surgery anxiety, avalon afriyie has written up a comprehensive list of everything you need to feel as comfortable and prepared as possible.
How Daily Probiotics Can Boost Your Vaginal Health
Probiotics have been taking the wellness industry by storm to boost gut health - but what's in it for your vagina? We take a look at these powerful microogranisms and their effect on the vaginal microbiome.
slaying your period: with abbie curls
from women’s health education to social media tips to natural hair care inspo, abbie of @abbiecurls is always dishing up the most relatable and motivating content on her platform.
living with endometriosis and uterine fibroids whilst black with Justice Aina
Justice Aina walks us through her personal journey of confronting racism within the healthcare system as a Black woman with endometriosis and uterine fibroids.
Feel Your Feelings: The Ohne Guide To Pisces Szn
the emotional floodgates have opened and it’s time to dive deep into our intuitive inner world. as the final sign of the zodiac, pisces szn is characterized by extra sensitivity, empathy, dreaminess and tapping into your innate wisdom.
slaying your period: with the chronic iconic
meet jess: a disability advocate, artist, fashion icon and all-around badass. jess’s goal is to destigmatise and debunk antiquated beliefs around disability and draw attention to the inequalities we continue to face in society.
Why is my period so heavy?
What constitutes a "heavy" period in the first place? Let's examine what it means to have menorrhagia — a heavier than average flow — and the possible causes behind it.
the best tips and tricks to alleviate period bloating
why do we get so terribly bloated at certain points in our cycle? and what can we do when we feel like a balloon that's about to burst? let's break down the bloat.
slaying your period: with elinor charlotte
we caught up with the slow fashion queen to chat all-things period related and discuss why she’s swooning over our latest collection of period pants.
slaying your period: with Megan Barton-Hanson
we caught up with the iconic Megan Barton-Hanson to discuss all-things period related — from her favorite menstrual products to a handy period trick she uses to curb cramps.
eat this, not that: what are the best foods to have on your period?
supporting your body with the right foods at the right times is one of the easiest ways to boost your well-being all cycle long. we've put together a mini grocery list to help you feel your best throughout every phase of your cycle.
do period pants smell? we're myth-busting all the misconceptions about period underwear
are period pants hygienic? how long can I wear them for? can I use them for bladder leaks? all your most important period pant questions, answered.
why free period pants? our founders explain the method behind the madness
No doubt you’re here because you’re wondering why any brand would give away a huge quantity of their new product stock on launch day, or because you’re wondering what the catch is and searching for some small print that’s seemingly invisible. (To address the last point: stop looking for the small print, it doesn’t exist.)
do period pants actually work? let's take a look at the sophisticated science
A combination of textile engineering and design mastery make period pants the most ingeniously designed pair of underwear in your drawer.
a beginner’s guide to period sex, part 3: how to talk about (and ask for) period sex
sex is a huge part of most of our lives. and so, for better or worse, are our periods. while we think period sex is truly amazing, one of life’s most underrated gifts, in fact, it can be really bloody hard to talk about.
what the colour of your period blood really means
Have you ever looked down at your underwear and thought - wtf is that normal?! Not only is another pair of cute underwear ruined, but the unexpected colour of the bloodstain can cause some major anxiety.
get to know your vagina better with these 5 taboo-busting books
Whether you consider yourself a bit of a sex-pert, or you’re just keen to get to know your body better, here’s our round-up of the five sexual wellness power-reads you should have on your radar this summer.
how to talk to your partner about periods - we're here to help
how do you talk to your partner about periods? if you want to talk to your boyfriend or girlfriend about periods but don't know where to start, we're here to help.
hot girl summer: how your period changes with the shifting seasons
We all know our periods can be fickle friends, seemingly changing with the slightest gust of wind, bite (or 30) of milk chocolate, or whether or not you've been working out much lately. What you might not be prepared for, however, is how your period can change with the seasons - even if you've not made any overt changes to your routines.
when is PMS not just PMS? a deep dive into PMDD
what is PMDD? and, for that matter, what actually is PMS? contrary to what you may have been led to believe, they’re not the same thing. PMDD is a mood disorder closely linked to the menstrual cycle which affects sufferers' quality of life, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.
period problems in lockdown? how to cope - with Melissa Adams
during your menstrual cycle, the reproductive hormones in your body fluctuate hugely. but throw in the stresses of the current climate under lockdown, and the effects of PMS and period pains are all the more difficult to deal with...
the male hormone cycle explained (and what it means for AFAB folk)
society has been built to work for men. specifically, for their hormone cycle. think of men like the sun and women like the moon. a male body goes through a 24 hour hormone cycle which resets every morning, while the menstrual cycle is an average of 29 days - just like the moon.
discharge throughout the menstrual cycle - what colour is yours?
discharge changes throughout the menstrual cycle and getting to know your discharge can help you understand what’s happening to your body at any given time. a sign of healthy discharge in general is that it’s white, creamy, and/or clear in colour and will be slightly sticky for most of the menstrual cycle.
"it took me ten years to get a diagnosis" living with PCOS
PCOS affects roughly 1 in 5 women in the UK. but what's it actually like to be one of these people? what are the signs you should be looking out for if you suspect something's up with your period?
what is retrograde menstruation and why does it sound so scary?
here's a tip: it has nothing to do with astrology. associated with dysmenorrhea and endometriosis, retrograde menstruation sounds scary - but it isn't.
meet your hormones - with maisie hill and period power
your hormones have a massive influence on your energy, mood, and behaviour. allow me to introduce you to them so that you can learn how to harness - and optimise - your hormones throughout your menstrual cycle.
what is TSS - toxic shock syndrome - and how can we avoid it?
Until less than a year ago, I thought that Toxic Shock Syndrome, or TSS, was caused by periods. Like, not by tampons, not by external toxins entering the body (despite the name), but by period blood. By our own gross period blood, congealing around a tampon, staying in our weird bodies too long, and doing something nasty and toxic.
period sex is fantastic, but as with all kinds of sex, it’s about your headspace
I’ve been slightly surprised it’s even considered taboo, with the casual way my boyfriend and I chuck a towel down and get to it.
how to insert a tampon
We’re going to explain to you, in as much detail as you could possibly ask for, just how to insert a tampon and our top tips for using tampons safely and hygienically.
I love cycle tracking and I want you to love it too
we want to introduce you to our new love: cycle tracking. because wellness is about more than green smoothies.
I think something is wrong with my period
Everyone who experiences periods has probably worried about them at some point. And I’m not talking the have-I-just-bled-onto-this-cushion worry, but the ‘is it supposed to hurt like this?’ ‘Is there supposed to be so much blood?’ ‘Is this normal?’ kind of worry.
what is a menstrual cycle (and how is it different from a period?)
periods and the stages of the menstrual cycle shouldn’t be a mystery to anyone, let alone the people who experience them. unfortuately, society has, for far too long, seen the female body as something shameful, to be hidden, never discussed.
nail down a period routine that works for you
rather than ‘winging it’ each month, get in sync with your cycle and show your period who’s boss with a bespoke, tailor-made period routine.
what I discovered about menstrual acne from instagram - by gina martin
During your cycle, your skin becomes collateral damage in a battle between your hormones and your body; fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone can mean your sebaceous glands become over-eager, then the next minute you know, you’re avidly moisturising dry patches. That body of yours is working bloody hard, so of course you need to give a little more TLC.
treating menstruation like the normal process that it is, *globally*
Challenging the stigma and taboo that surrounds some of the more ‘intimate’ workings of the body should be at the core of what we do when it comes to periods – both in lower income areas and everywhere else.
stop flushing your tampons away - the fish are eating them
Every year, the waste of non-biodegradable disposable products fills up our landfills and ends up floating in our beloved oceans; 200,000 tonnes of it to be exact. That’s the equivalent of 600,000 sea turtles. Hideous facts pre-warning: 1 in every 100 pieces of rubbish in the ocean is a menstrual product, 70% of deep sea animals and 90% of seabirds have gobbled down plastic and there are over 50 non-biodegradable plastic period products on every mile of British beach.
let's bust the discharge myth, we're all about learning our bodies
Here at ohne, we talk about topics that we think don’t get enough public attention. So today that’s discharge. Our main message? Your vagina is sensitive, that’s why we want you to stop stuffing it with toxin-saturated feminine products. Your vaginas sensitivity means that it will cue you in if something is amiss (which, lets face it, happens to the best of us every now and again).
is chocolate really the holy grail of PMS medication?
For as long as we can remember we’ve turned to chocolate as the holy grail of medication and the answer to all (fine, most) ailments, especially period-related ones. Horrid cramps? Here’s an entire bar of Green and Blacks. PMS? Booja Booja Chocolate Salted Caramel ice-cream. We welcome these treats of sugary goodness with open arms and mouths because, hell, it makes us feel fucking better than we did before it. Or do we?
unexpected uterus bleeding, what's my vagina doing?
Menstruating humans, does spotting ring a bell? There are most definitely certain things that every menstruator should know about spotting. So we’re here for you, and we’re also here to bust the myths that are damn right scary...
try this | take the quiz
take this quiz to build your dream period kit.
Ready for your new period?
We make it easy. Build your unique period kit with products as naked as the plant they came from (toxin-free and organic, just the way your vagina likes ‘em). Available in both naked and bio- degradable applicators we’re here to help put you first.