One of the most common concerns I hear from patients is about their vaginal discharge. “I have an infection…I’m too wet…I’m too dry…I’m dripping all the time…” Some women come into my office multiple times a year because they’ve noticed a change in their secretions. But vaginal discharge is a good thing — it’s actually a sign of a healthy, working vagina.
What vaginal discharge means:
- Your vagina is keeping itself clean, just like when your skin sheds cells all day long.
- Your vagina is keeping itself lubricated, so it doesn’t stick to itself (ouch).
- Your vagina is actually protecting itself from infection, by forming a slippery barrier between you and the outside world.
What vaginal discharge doesn’t (necessarily) mean:
- You have an infection. I promise, most vaginal discharge is normal, especially when it changes throughout your cycle: from white and thick, to clear and stretchy, to downright watery.
- You’re not keeping yourself clean. Discharge has NOTHING to do with how often you wash or shower.
Okay, what discharge MIGHT mean:
- You’ve developed a non-STD infection, like bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection.
- You’ve caught an STD, like chlamydia, gonorrhea, or trichomonas.
- You’re pregnant.
- You’re on the birth control pill.
- You’re sexually aroused.
So what should you worry about? Changes such as color, consistency, amount, and/or smell of your vaginal secretions that are not like your normal monthly changes. Abnormal vaginal discharge may also come with itching, soreness, rash, a burning sensation when peeing, or pain. If you have any of these symptoms, see your gyno for an exam.
Do any of you have discharge worries?
— Dr. Kate
Dr. Kate of Gynotalk is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City. She also lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health.