Self, Sex

9 Things Your Vaginal Secretions Can Tell You About Your Body And Your Health

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is vaginal discharge normal

While there are both normal and abnormal vaginal secretions, normal vaginal discharge consists of vaginal and cervical cells, mucus, fluid, and bacteria. The amount can vary depending on the individual. Also, the color can be clear to off-white, with or without mild odor.

"Normal vaginal secretions are not associated with pelvic pain, fever, itching or burning symptoms. The consistency of the discharge can vary depending on the phase of the menstrual cycle. In the follicular phase or preovulatory phase, the discharge can be thin, clear and stretchy in consistency due to elevated estrogen levels, whereas in the luteal or postovulatory phase, the discharge can be thick, sticky and whitish in color due to increased progesterone levels.

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Also, during sexual arousal, vaginal engorgement can produce more fluid and discharge. During pregnancy, the higher levels of estrogen may lead to an increase in a normal, milky white discharge with or without a mild odor," says Dr. Sunny Jun, the Co-Founder and Co-Medical Director of CCRM San Francisco.

Worried about your vaginal discharge? Here's what your vaginal secretions can tell you about your body.

1. Odd color and odor reveal a potential yeast infection.

Is vaginal discharge normal? Well, vaginal secretions are very normal if they are clear or slightly opaque and don't have an odor.

"Yeast infections are typically white and cottage cheese-like without an odor and may or may not be accompanied by itching and irritation. Bacterial infections are typically creamier, possibly yellow or gray, and usually have an odor. So the consistency, color, and odor of these secretions can tell us something about the health of the vaginal pelvic system," says Dr. Lisa Masterson.  

2. Thicker discharge with redness could mean bacterial or fungal infection.

Abnormal vaginal discharge associates most of the time with either viral, bacterial or fungal infections that can lead to other signs and symptoms.

"The most common fungal infection or yeast infection can have a thicker, white cottage cheese like discharge along with vaginal itching, redness, burning, and tenderness. Another common infection is due to changes in the normal vaginal flora, leading to grayish to yellowish vaginal discharge with a distinct fishy odor," says Dr. Jun.

3. An increase in discharge could mean an STD.

"Sexually transmitted infections including chlamydia and gonorrhea can present with abnormal vaginal discharge (increased amount), but sometimes the initial phase of these infections can be 'silent' until women complain of other associated symptoms of pelvic pain, fever, pain or bleeding after sex, burning with urination, and so on.

These particular infections can have a negatively impact women’s fertility potential if not treated and can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and tubal damage. Any changes in vaginal secretions/discharge should be evaluated by a physician," says Dr. Jun.

4. But remember: every vagina smells different...

"I like to think about the vagina as a magical biological machine, capable of so many things without its owner ever having to consciously think about it, and one of the vagina's amazing 'talents' is self-regulation. Specifically with regard to pH, bacterial/yeast levels, and a general sense of being 'clean.'

Every vagina is different and its microbiome is as unique as the anatomy that surrounds it, which means there's no one way for it to appear or smell. But once you learn what your normal is, you can learn so much about your vaginal health by what comes out of it on the regular," says Anne Hodder, ACS, a multi-certified sex educator.

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5. ...Which means you should familiarize yourself with your every day, "normal" scent and discharge.

Vaginas are made to, among other things, self-clean. Your vagina literally sloughs off all the stuff it doesn't want or need inside of it and gets rid of it by way of daily discharge.

"Typically, but not always, this discharge can be milky or white in appearance and have a scent that, once you're acquainted, will generally stay similar day to day. That's one of the most important things your vaginal secretions can tell you: what you see and smell day to day is your unique vagina's 'normal,'" says Hodder.

6. Your vaginal secretions can reveal where you might be in your ovulation cycle.

If you ovulate, of course. Paying attention to your body throughout the month can help you learn how your vaginal discharge might change as you become fertile.

"Cervical mucus (the goopy stuff that forms on the surface of the cervix throughout your cycle) thickens as you close in on ovulation time and often can be secreted from the vagina following fertile times of the month," says Hodder.

7. Vaginal secretions can also tell you if it might be time to see a gyno.

"If and when your discharge might look or smell different from what you're accustomed to (and trust me. it happens to everyone and it's perfectly common), then it might be time for a check-up. It doesn't mean something is necessarily wrong, of course, but unusual-smelling or unusual-looking vaginal discharge often is one of the first signs that there could be an infection, or simply that your vagina's microbiome has been disrupted," says Hodder.

8. Sources of vaginal irritation are way more far reaching than you may imagine.

"Soaps, some lubricants, scented lotions, douches, and other commercial products sold to us with the intention of 'cleaning' or somehow improving our vaginas often end up doing just the opposite and can royally mess up your vagina's natural occurrence of bacteria and yeast, which can lead to uncomfortable but easily treatable infections," says Hodder.

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9. Strange secretions potentially reveal bacterial and viral infections.

Some symptoms of bacterial or viral infections, including sexually and non-sexually transmitted infections, include discharge that has an unusual color or smells stronger than usual.

"So if you've had unprotected vaginal sex recently or a barrier method (like a condom) failed AND you notice your vaginal discharge is different, it might be a good idea to visit a healthcare provider to, among other things, have an STI test done," says Hodder.

Watch the video below to learn more about what vaginal discharge is and what it means for your health:


Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her at