If you’ve ever looked down at your favourite pair of undies when you’re on the toilet and seen thick, white fluid and groaned, you’re not alone. If you’ve ever wondered why your black undies get bleached white after a while, you’re not alone there either. Most of us know that our vaginas secrete fluids, however, we may not always know all the nuances of vaginal discharge. Your discharge is a good indicator of your vaginal health, so it’s important to keep track of your fluids and how they change throughout your menstrual cycle.
Vaginal discharge is most noticeable when you start puberty. This is when your body matures, your ovaries produce more estrogen, and your vagina generates more glycogen. Glycogen is a fuel for lactobacillus, a (good) bacteria which leaves behind lactic acid. Lactic acid is what contributes to your vagina’s healthy acidity and wards off germs. Before puberty, your vaginal fluids may have scored about a neutral six to nine on the pH scale, but during or after puberty, this falls to an acidic four on the pH scale. That’s why your black undies may become bleached over a period of time: your vaginal fluids are so acidic that they are literally bleaching its material. (Side note: damn, our bodies are powerful.)
Not all fluid is the same though, as you might have noticed. Discharge comes in all scents, textures, viscosities, colours, and quantities, so it’s good to identify what you’re secreting throughout your cycle.
Whether it’s from working out, tight clothing, or heat, it’s normal to get a little sweaty down there.
This is how your vaginal walls react when you’re ready to rumble (if you know what we mean). Lubrication is clear and slippery to reduce friction.
On the first day of your period, you may notice brown blood that is clumpier in texture. This is usually the remnants of a previous cycle.
This is seen during the heaviest days of menstruation. As your endometrium sheds, you will notice thicker, bright red blood. It may smell like iron.
After menstruation, your vagina will be rather dry (think dry like your eyeball – not skin). A couple of days afterwards, you’ll notice a thick, creamy, and cloudy white or yellow fluid. This is because your vagina expels mucus from the cervix.
This discharge will most likely be colourless or pale white and similar to water in viscosity. However, if there’s still some blood remaining in your system, it will be excreted at this point, leaving you with a more pink fluid.
Fluid During Ovulation
When you ovulate, you produce on average thirty times more fluid than any other time during your cycle. The mucus from your cervix becomes clearer and more elastic at this stage. It will be similar to the texture of raw egg whites. In fact, specialists call this type of discharge Egg White Cervical Mucus for exactly this reason.
Sometimes, your vagina may extrude discharge that looks a lot like yoghurt. Thick, creamy, clumpy, curdled, and white fluid may be an indication of a yeast infection, caused by the overgrowth of candida albicans, a fungus. Just a reminder: yeast infections are incredibly common and do not make you dirty, bad, or unhygienic. It just means something in your system is off and you just need to hit the reset button.
If your discharge is similar to yoghurt and smells like fish, it could be a sign of bacterial vaginosis. Just like a yeast infection, BV is a result of the overgrowth of natural microorganisms in your vagina.
These are some of the most common types of discharge, but it’s imperative to remember that everyone’s bodies are different, complex, and nuanced systems. Everyone’s discharge is just a little bit varied – that doesn’t make you weird, smelly, or gross. Because the vagina is a self-cleaning organ, tampering with its intricate mechanisms can get you in more trouble than you intended. Always remember to track your discharge during your menstrual cycle to get to know your body better.