How much vaginal discharge is normal?
Vaginal discharge isn’t something we often see.
It’s not shown in adverts for liners (we’re only shown pristine, clean ones or those with a light soaking of ambiguous blue liquid), people don’t share photos of their discharge online (apart from that time people did the #PantyChallenge), and we don’t tend to see pictures of it in sex ed.
It’s no wonder, then, that so many girls and women worry that there’s something ‘wrong’ with their discharge.
We worry that the very existence of goop in our underwear is a sign that our vaginas aren’t normal (they are). We panic about smell, consistency, and amount, feeling self-conscious of the stuff coming out of our undercarriage.
No wonder, then, that so many of us end up googling a bunch of stressy questions about our vag.
Is my discharge normal?
How much discharge is normal?
Is it supposed to smell?
Let’s get these answered, starting with how much discharge, exactly, you should expect to spot in your pants or on a liner.
How much discharge is normal?
As vagina guru and gynaecologist Dr Jen Gunter explains, up to 4ml of discharge over the course of 24 hours is entirely normal and healthy.
That number can be a little hard to visualise, mind you, so Jen’s done everyone a favour and showed what 4ml of fluid looks like spread all over a liner.
This is what 4ml of vaginal discharge really looks like
So no, seeing a wet spot in your pants isn’t cause for alarm.
It’s entirely normal and the very existence of discharge is not gross or weird. Relax.
Is discharge dirty?
Nah. It’s just part of the vagina’s glorious self-cleaning process.
It’s not gross, dirty, or toxic for anyone to touch.
What is discharge?
It’s essentially a type of mucus, produced naturally from the cervix (that’s the neck of the womb).
Dr Virginia Beckett, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, tells metro.co.uk: ‘It’s normal and healthy for a woman to produce a clear or white discharge from her vagina.
‘The amount of vaginal discharge varies throughout a women’s menstrual cycle, and most pregnant women will get a pregnancy discharge.
‘Healthy discharge doesn’t have a strong smell or colour, but women may feel an uncomfortable wetness.’
There you go.
Should my discharge smell?
Your discharge won’t be totally odourless, so don’t expect it to be.
The only time you need to worry about the smell of your discharge is if it has a strong smell, a smell that’s different to usual, an unpleasant smell, or a fishy smell.
These scents could be signs of infection.
What colour should my discharge be?
Discharge should be clear, white, or a cream colour.
If it’s yellow, brown (when you’re not on your period), or green, that could be a sign of infection.
What consistency should my discharge be?
Work out what’s normal for you, and only worry if you see a dramatic change.
For most of the month, discharge will be thick and sticky, then will likely become clearer, wetter, and more slippery around ovulation.
It becomes thick, lumpy, or cottage cheese-y, mention it to your GP.
What changes should I be looking out for in my discharge?
Your discharge is a good indicator of what’s going on in your vagina – so keep an eye out for any changes.
‘Any sudden change in a woman’s discharge may indicate a vaginal infection,’ explains Dr Beckett. ‘Women should be aware of how their discharge naturally varies throughout their cycles and what isn’t normal.
‘The warning signs of infection include a change in colour or consistency, a sudden bad smell, an unusually large amount of discharge, itching outside the vagina, pain in the pelvis or tummy, or unexpected bleeding from the vagina.’
Abnormalities tend to be the result of infection or anything that’s disrupted the vagina’s balance of bacteria – such as washing inside the vagina or unprotected sex.
The most common causes are thrush, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, genital herpes, or chlamydia.
If you’re concerned, head to a GP for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
In short: accept your discharge, love your discharge, and know your discharge well.
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