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Dr. Kate: Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

Thu, Mar 19, 2009

Advice, What's Up Doc?

waterfallphoto by Li-Ji

Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City who answers your medical questions here once a week. To ask her your own question, click here.

One of the most common concerns I hear from patients is about their vaginal discharge. “I have an infection‚ĶI’m too wet‚ĶI’m too dry‚ĶI’m dripping all the time‚Ķ” Some women come into my office multiple times a year because they‚Äôve 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
Gyotalk

Dr. Kate 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. Check out more of her advice and ask her a question at Gynotalk.com.

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19 Responses to “Dr. Kate: Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls”

  1. anonymous Says:

    Thanks Dr. Kate. Uncomfortable questions have been answered. :)

  2. Sylvester muhereza Says:

    Hey Kate,its been my first time to know a bout you. help me answer this question,
    What causes penis discharge?

  3. J.M Says:

    hello dr. kate i have a very embarrasing question to ask…i noticed you put “burning sensation when your peeing”…ok so after i have sex i feel that burning sensation..even when im having sex..does that mean i have an std? or am i alergic to condoms?

  4. Kayla Says:

    J.M,
    I AM A WOMAN. NOT A MAN. MY NAME IS KAYLA. I HAVE A MAN’S EMAIL UP BECAUSE I DON’T WANT ANOTHER MAN BEING DISGUSTING WITH ME. IN OTHER WORD’S PERVERT’S. I AM NOT SAYING YOU J.M OR SYLVESTOR MUHEREZA ARE LIKE THAT AT ALL. I AM TRYING TO GIVE YOU SOME TIP’S. J.M YOU DON’T HAVE STD. WHAT IT IS THE CONDOM’S YOU ARE USING YOU MIGHTBE ALLERGIC TO THEM. MY HUSBAND WAS THE SAME WAY. DON’T YOU DARE USE LIFESTYLES THEY BREAK VERY,VERY EASY. DON’T USE THE ONES AT THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT EITHER. ALOT, OF GUY’S GO THERE FOR THEM BECAUSE THEY CAN’T AFFORD TO BUY THEM. BUY THE KIND DUREX!!!!
    GOOD LUCK, KAYLA

  5. J.M Says:

    thanks kayla=) dont worry im a girl too i understand about the whole perverts thing…

  6. J.M Says:

    o im sorry i have another question kayla.. so when im having sex it starts hurting me towards the end as if i were too dry then..& the burning either starts before and after the dryness happens… is that also the condom or is there something wrong with me?

  7. lisa Says:

    i was reading about the discharge comments and i have occur to one of these. my discharge has changed to a whitish colour and smells foul do u know what this might mean

  8. Elizabeth Says:

    Hello,
    I have completely normal discharge. I’m a teenager, ad used to think, Oh no! What is this? I know it’s normal now (I already knew before this article, but it was still helpful!) and I have one question. What the HECK do I do to keep from leaking through my panties some days?
    I hate wearing pads. Yeck.

    Elizabeth

  9. Dr. Kate Says:

    JM, the burning may be a sign that you’re not wet enough (and drying out can happen with or without a condom). Have your guy stop for a moment so you can reapply lube – you’ll feel more comfortable, and he’ll be able to go a little longer after the short break.

    Lisa, if your discharge has a foul odor, it may be bacterial vaginosis (BV)–your gyno can tell you for sure.

    Elizabeth, I know it’s frustrating, but that’s what underwear is for! Have a spare pair in your locker or purse (and a ziploc for the ones you’re swapping out)…it’s healthier for you to change your panties than to start wearing pantiliners all the time.

  10. ann Says:

    Hi Dr. Kate i’m a teenager and i just realised that it is normal. Thank you for answering the uncomfortable questions and also and please answer what causes the pain that one feels when having periods?

  11. Jean Says:

    Dr. Kate, I have three questions, First, I experience a burning sensation when i urinate a couple of hours after sex is that normal?
    Second, when i have sex I’m overly stimulated so i produce a lot of lubrication, what would you recommend to not be so messy? Finally I have never been to a gyno, and I have been on birth control for almost 3 years to help keep my random periods under control, I was told that i should see a gyno just for a check up since I am on the pill, should I go ahead and make an appointment??? Thanks.

  12. J.M Says:

    thanks dr.kate your a big help

  13. Kisha Says:

    Dr. kate, my third child tore me. It took a little longer for it to heal. Its been two year and sometimes it still get sore. Do you know what causes this

  14. Dr. Kate Says:

    Ann, the pain comes from a release of chemicals (called prostaglandins) that happens before and during your period. The best over-the-counter treatment is anti-inflammatory medication, like ibuprofen (600mg every 6 hours) or naproxen (500mg every 12 hours).

    Kisha, if it’s been 2 years since your delivery, your vagina has likely healed by now. The soreness is probably from either not enough lubrication or not enough arousal/blood flow to your vagina before intercourse. I can only imagine how hard it is to find enough time for intimacy with 3 kids! But you owe it to your vagina to be turned on enough before sex.

  15. Dr. Kate Says:

    Jean,
    If the only time you feel burning is after sex, it may be a reaction to the lubricant or condoms you’re using. If you’re not using either, try urinating both before and after sex to see if it makes a difference.

    A lot of lubrication is a GOOD thing! Don’t worry about the mess (tuck a towel under your bum if you’re really worried) – plenty of lubrication tends to lead to better sex for both of you.

    And everyone over the age of 18 should see a gyno every year, whether or not you’re on birth control – an exam may not always be needed, but it’s important to discuss your medical and sexual history with someone who can help keep you healthy.

  16. jeana Says:

    vagina too watery during sex I have to stop in the middle to dry it out. It is normal?

  17. jeana Says:

    vagina too watery during sex I have to stop in the middle to dry it out. Is it normal? Not only i have to dry my husband penis out.

  18. Dr. Kate Says:

    Jeana, as a gyno, I have to say I don’t think there’s such a thing as too wet during sex! Such abundant lubrication means that you’re incredibly turned on, and your body is really ready for intercourse – both good things. You don’t need to stop in the middle of sex…you can experiment with different positions if you want to try for a tighter feeling during intercourse…try keeping your legs together when he enters you. But lubrication really is a good and healthy thing.

  19. Alyssia Says:

    Dr.kate , I’m really worried the past couple of days I’ve had very thick white cottage cheese like discharge with no smell but very bothersome itching and burning I’m not on birth control and have been sexually active the last couple of days without a condom…could this be an STD or yeast infection?


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