The vagina is an incredible organ– it has systems in place to keep its tissues healthy, to protect against bacterial and fungal infections, and to provide lubrication. Discharge is the vagina’s way of keeping itself clean– it’s constantly in the process of shedding dead cells and fluid that come from the glands in the cervix and the walls of the vagina. As this discharge exits your body, it can appear as small white spots in your panties. If you wear white or light colored panties, you might not even notice. Let’s talk a little bit about normal vs. abnormal vaginal discharge.
Normal discharge happens daily and varies depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle, if you’re pregnant, if you’ve gone through menopause, or if you take hormones. Sometimes it’s thicker, sometimes it’s thinner, sometimes more, sometimes less, but it is usually clear to milky white and has no noticeable odor. There is no itching or burning with this discharge, and you might not even notice it’s there.
Abnormal discharge occurs when there is a significant change in your discharge; and it may come along with vaginal discomfort. For example, if the amount of discharge increases and has an odor, this is most likely due to a bacterial infection. If the discharge color and texture changes or begins looking clumpy, you may have a yeast infection. If you experience redness, itching, or burning associated with a change in discharge, you could have either. It’s important to visit a doctor if if you are unsure because over-the-counter yeast infection medications will not help a bacterial infection, and anti-bacterial medication will not solve a yeast infection.
Hormonal changes can also cause fluctuations in vaginal discharge, and we will talk more about that next week!