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What Does ‘Normal’ Vaginal Discharge Usually Look and Smell Like?

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Whatever the funk smells like: An ob-gyn can swab the discharge and diagnose whether you have an infection, says Dr. Arnold. From there, there are treatment options: For yeast infections, there are various forms of over-the-counter antifungal creams, ointments, and suppositories available in different strengths, like Monistat. (But if you can sneak in a visit with a doctor, it’s a good idea so you can make sure you’re getting the right treatment—people can commonly assume a vaginal issue is yeast infection when it could be another infection.) For BV, treatments include antibiotics like metronidazole (Flagyl) pills or gel or clindamycin gel (XACIATO), says Dr. Montes.

What should my discharge look and feel like, texture-wise?

When you take a peek at your underwear, you’ll probably see clear or white discharge, Dr. Taneja says. It’s stretchy in consistency at its baseline, and it might also be slightly thick and gooey. You’ll notice that its texture fluctuates throughout your menstrual cycle (unless you’re on hormonal birth control, in which case it’ll stay mostly the same throughout the month, according to Dr. Taneja).

Some people who are trying to get pregnant keep an eye on their discharge during ovulation, because it tends to be a little bit thinner and smoother than it is at other times of the month—its consistency is most commonly compared to egg whites. The slipperiness of this discharge gives sperm a boost toward reaching the cervix.

Some changes in discharge texture can be a red flag that you have an infection. BV causes thinner-than-normal, milky discharge, Dr. Taneja says. A yeast infection, which is caused by an overgrowth of the fungus candida, will likely come with totally different discharge: It’ll be thicker than it would be if you had BV, almost the consistency of cottage cheese, according to Dr. Taneja. If you’re unsure if you’re coming down with BV or a yeast infection, it’s really important to see a health care provider to get tested: Mistreating what you’ve got going on often leads to worse symptoms, and since vaginal infections can have really similar symptoms, it’s hard to tell what you have yourself.

How much discharge is too much?

Generally speaking: You might notice about one-half teaspoon to one teaspoon total on an average day. It’s tricky to measure the exact amount of discharge that’s coming out of you, though, so it’s a good idea to get familiar with what seems normal for you before you suspect an issue—that way, you can clock when anything seems off. One benchmark: If you’re leaking through underwear or pantyliners and need pads to absorb all the discharge you’re having, your body could be overproducing discharge in an attempt to fight off an infection, meaning it’s time to see a doctor.

An increase in discharge is super-common during pregnancy, which is thanks to spiking estrogen and progesterone levels, says Dr. Arnold. Given that vaginal discharge is your body’s way of keeping your vagina, and also your cervix and uterus, clean: It’s flushing everything of potential infection and protecting the uterus and fetus. Later on in your pregnancy, you might lose what’s called a mucus plug, a collection of discharge that hangs out in the cervix to prevent infections, and see clearer or pinker vaginal discharge as a result, according to Dr. Arnold, as the cervix secretes mucus and dilates in preparation for labor.

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When should I see a doctor about my vaginal discharge?

Normally, you’ll have regular fluctuations in consistency, color, and amount—so don’t worry if things feel, look, or smell different for a few days, as long as it’s not remarkably out of the ordinary. But you shouldn’t ignore discharge that has a green, gray, or dark yellow color, especially if it has a strong smell. Any super-fishy odor should lead you to check in with an ob-gyn, and the same goes for unusually runny or thick discharge (particularly if you have any kind of pain or burning). If the changes in your discharge come with other symptoms, like itching, burning, pain during sex, or discomfort in your lower abdomen: These are also good reasons to seek help, because you might be dealing with a health issue like the ones outlined above.

If you think you could be pregnant, spotting in your discharge could be normal, but might also indicate an ectopic pregnancy or pregnancy loss, so it definitely warrants a visit to an ob-gyn.

You’re the best judge of your body, so whatever your normal discharge is like, you’ll most likely know when it’s telling you something else is going on. Just remember: Discharge isn’t “dirty”—in fact, it’s exactly what keeps your vagina clean and infection-free. 

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Source: Self

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