How To Know When Your White Discharge Is Normal
- White discharge is normal unless it is accompanied by bothersome symptoms.
- Personal hygiene can have a significant impact on your vaginal health, and also influence the reasons behind white discharge.
- Watch out for changes in colour and smell of your white discharge. It's important to observe your body's cyclical changes
Almost every woman deals with some amount of white vaginal discharge—also known as leukorrhea—throughout her menstrual cycle. At different times in the cycle, the discharge tends to have a different texture and density—sometimes it's a clear, watery fluid, and sometimes it appears to be an emission of thick, sticky clots. While it's usually a normal secretion, it's important to recognize the signs and symptoms that hint at underlying complications.
What does white discharge mean?
Simply put, it's your body's way of keeping your reproductive turf clean and healthy. Most women emit just under a teaspoon of it every day. Produced and released from the cervix (the opening of the uterus), white discharge helps lubricate a woman's vaginal passage and removes unfavorable microorganisms that may be lurking in it. The creamy white discharge before your period is a composite of dead cells, white blood cells, and bacteria.
When the white discharge is a good sign
It's normal to see cloudy, white discharge a few days before your period, coinciding with the increased levels of progesterone in your body. During these days, your body is trying to prevent any sperm from swimming up your cervix. However, in other phases of your menstrual cycle, when your body has higher levels of estrogen, your vaginal discharge will tend to be clear and watery.
After your period, on the other hand, you may experience some creamy pink discharge. This happens when the white discharge is tinged with leftover menstrual blood that has not been expelled during your period.
Typically, you have nothing to worry about as long as your white discharge:
- Is not accompanied by a strong, unpleasant smell
- Is white, thick, and sticky
- Is slippery and wet
- Does not bring along pelvic cramps
Types of white discharge
The type or texture of your discharge depends on what stage of your menstrual cycle you're in. Generally, it starts as pasty before turning to a creamier texture. As you get closer to ovulation, your discharge starts becoming wet and slippery.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, if you have a 28-day menstrual cycle, your cervical mucus will generally follow the below-mentioned pattern:
- Days 1-4 after your period ends: Dry or tacky. It can be white or yellow-tinged.
- Days 4-6: Sticky. Slightly damp and white.
- Days 7-9: Creamy, yogurt-like consistency. Wet and cloudy.
- Days 10-14: Stretchy and resembles raw egg whites. Slippery and very wet.
- Days 14-28: Dry until menstruation occurs.
When is the white discharge not normal?
Pay attention to how your cervical mucus looks and feels:
Certain vaginal infections and sexually transmitted diseases can cause a smelly discharge. For instance, a fishy odor that becomes more intense after you have had sex hints at bacterial vaginosis (BV). This is a condition caused by a pH shift in the vaginal flora that makes it less acidic and causes vaginal discharge.
- Creamy white with itching or burning sensation
Yeast infections cause creamy white discharge, accompanied by vaginal itching or burning, or pain during sex or urination.
- Heavy discharge
Hormonal birth control can lead to more discharge than normal. Speak to your doctor if you've noticed new symptoms or a sudden increase in the volume of your vaginal discharge.
- Greenish or yellowish with a strong, unpleasant odor
Meet your gynecologist immediately if this happens. More often than not, a greenish-yellow discharge hints at trichomoniasis, a parasitic infection transmitted through unprotected sex. This condition is typically defined as intense itching or burning. If your vulva feels inflamed, while you are passing a greenish-yellow discharge, you could be suffering from vulvovaginitis.
How to maintain a healthy vaginal environment
1. Be conscious of personal hygiene
Keep the outer genital area clean and dry to prevent unhealthy bacteria from flourishing and to keep vaginal odors at bay. Consider using a panty liner when you have heavy discharge. Panty liners absorb excess moisture that may irritate.
However, when shopping for a panty liner, choose one that is made from a material that does not block air circulation. Synthetics are a no-no. Also, though scented panty liners may seem tempting, bear in mind that they may have irritating chemicals. As a thumb rule, it's best to not let the skin in your vaginal area come in close, prolonged contact with perfumed products.
2. Wipe from front to back.
After using the toilet, always wipe from front to back. Doing the reverse can spread bacteria from the anus to the vagina.
3. Avoid douching
While there may be a perceived benefit of feeling cleaner and odor-free after using a vaginal douche, you could be inviting trouble if you do it frequently. Douching can disturb the natural vaginal flora by eliminating the good bacteria and making room for harmful bacteria to thrive.
Studies indicate that women who do not use douching products are less likely to suffer from bacterial vaginosis and are less prone to pelvic inflammatory disease.
4. Wear cotton panties
Avoid tight, synthetic panties that don't 'breathe'. Synthetic fibers keep the genital area moist and humid and thus build the perfect environment for a nagging yeast infection to take over. Innerwear made of pure cotton reduces the risk of vaginal infections.
5. Eat probiotic foods
There are more than 50 types of microbes that thrive in your vagina, and help keep it clean and healthy. Many of these are a bunch of good samaritans called lactobacilli that constantly fight off harmful microbes.
When there is an imbalance of lactobacilli, you will experience frequent itching, white discharge, and a gamey odor. Probiotic foods, such as yogurt, kimchi, pickles, and kombucha, can restore a healthy bacterial population and encourage the growth of favorable vaginal flora.
White discharge is usually normal, but if it's accompanied by other symptoms such as persistent itching, a deeply unpleasant smell, and color, or a burning sensation, get yourself examined by a gynecologist.
Choose your hygiene products and innerwear carefully. Opt for chemical-free products made from natural fibers.
Menstrual cycle events are vital signs related to women's health. Knowing what is normal and understanding what isn't can be valuable in the long run for your reproductive health.
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