Doc, Make Vaginal Discharge Clear: When is it normal?
Vaginal discharge. Even though the words illicit a little laugh, an embarrassed look away, and even cause the listener to squirm, it is an ever present issue and normal physiologic thing women deal with. Often I hear women say “I just couldn’t tell if this was normal so I figured I’d take the time off work, and pay the co-pay and get naked in the exam room to hear you tell me it was normal….” As our loyal blog followers know, Dr Every Woman aka Dr McDonald and I are passionate about vaginal health and hygiene. I’ve included some of our past blogs in case you want to revisit and freshen up (lol. pun intended!!) on them. ( The Truth: Vaginal Health and Hygiene Myths Revealed). Dispelling the myths (thanks Goop (insert side eye here)….Vaginal Steaming: Yay or Nay? It may be okay…), reviewing the dos and donts, and overall just knowing the general anatomy and health of your lady bits (Lady Bits Exposed: Why Knowing Your Anatomy Matters) are great reads before visiting your gynecologist.
Let’s start with normal and less concerning discharge. Hormones cause changes in the pH of the vagina, and also cause changes in the discharge. It can become a bit stickier, thicker, thinner etc, based on the timing of your cycle. A great way to know if your
vaginal discharge is related to your cycle is to keep a symptom diary of when you actually have the discharge in relationship to your menses. Most commonly, changes are seen about 2 weeks before your cycle during ovulation. Often it’s an odorless, colorless discharge that lasts 3-5 days. The big key is it resolves on its own. No medications, no changes in practice and all of a sudden you realize it is gone. Pregnancy is another big hormonal shifter that causes changes in discharge as well.
Now, let’s discuss some things that are maybe not so normal (That Itch You Just Cannot Scratch: Vaginal Itching (Vaginitis). As you can probably deduce, anything that does NOT go away on its own after a week or so should probably be looked at. If there are other symptoms associated with the discharge, for instance swelling of the vaginal or vulvar canal (Lady Bits Exposed: Why Knowing Your Anatomy Matters), itching, burning with urination, blood in the discharge, odor that is different
from normal or a discharge that looks abnormal from your own normal are all reasons to get an exam and be checked out. Sometimes even changes in the season can irritate the vagina and necessitate some medication to “reset” the system. As I mentioned before, pregnancy can cause normal changes in the pH, but it can also make things more sensitive to abnormal shifts in bacteria.
Often times when women have a noticeable change in their vaginal discharge, it is worth it to examine any changes that have occurred in your other daily life. A new medication, diet, underwear, sexual partner, even birth control can affect the pH and subsequently the discharge. If you have changed something, try removing it for a week or so and see if that improves things.
In general, it is important to remember everyone has their own normal. Any time you are worried or feel there has been a change it is always best to get an exam before things get unbearable. Probiotics, drinking water and staying away from home remedies are a good way to avoid exacerbating the problem. And remember. Happy Vagina. Happy Life.