The Gooey Taboo: Destigmatising DISCHARGE

Vaginal discharge is a normal and healthy occurrence in the female body and serves as a self-cleaning mechanism, maintaining the delicate balance of the vaginal ecosystem. For some reason (patriarchy?) people have been socialised to feel “ick” about discharge. What’s important to know is that it is important and necessary and changes in consistency and colour throughout the menstrual cycle. Want to know “what’s normal?” - read on below.


Understandings Discharge Variations

It’s essential to recognise that vaginal discharge changes in consistency and appearance due to many influencing factors, including hormonal fluctuations, menstrual cycle stages, sexual arousal, and pregnancy. Awareness of these variations can help individuals differentiate between what is normal and what may warrant medical attention.


Understanding Discharge Variations Across the Menstrual Cycle

Throughout the menstrual cycle, vaginal discharge undergoes notable changes as a result of hormonal fluctuations. Let's explore these different phases and the corresponding variations in discharge:


1. Menstrual Phase:

During menstruation, the uterus sheds its lining, resulting in the menstrual flow. Typically, vaginal discharge is minimal during this phase. It may appear as a thin, watery discharge mixed with blood.


2. Follicular Phase:

Following menstruation, the follicular phase begins. The body prepares for ovulation by producing follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estrogen. As estrogen levels rise, the cervix produces more cervical mucus. Discharge during this phase tends to be creamy, sticky, or tacky in texture. It may appear white or slightly cloudy.


3. Ovulatory Phase:

The ovulatory phase marks the release of an egg from the ovary. Estrogen levels peak during this time, resulting in a significant change in discharge. The cervical mucus becomes clear, slippery, and stretchy, resembling raw egg whites. This fertile cervical mucus facilitates sperm survival and movement, promoting the chances of conception.


4. Luteal Phase:

After ovulation, the luteal phase begins. The ruptured follicle transforms into the corpus luteum, which produces progesterone. Progesterone causes the cervical mucus to become thicker and less abundant compared to the ovulatory phase. Discharge during this phase is often creamy or sticky in consistency, with a white or off-white color.


It's important to note that these descriptions are generalisations, and individual variations may occur. Observing changes in discharge throughout the menstrual cycle can offer valuable insights into fertility tracking for contraception, understanding potential hormonal imbalances, and optimising family planning efforts.


Recognising the differences in discharge consistency, texture, and color during each phase allows for a deeper understanding of the body's natural rhythms. Embracing these changes as part of the menstrual cycle empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their reproductive health and overall wellbeing.


Recognising Abnormal Discharge

While most vaginal discharge is harmless, it’s crucial to be aware of signs that might indicate an underlying issue. Abnormal discharge may present with unusual colours (green, yellow, or gray), a strong odour, or be accompanied by itching, irritation, or discomfort. Such symptoms could indicate an infection or other health concerns, and prompt medical consultation is recommended.


Promoting Vaginal Health

Maintaining optimal vaginal health is an essential part of overall wellbeing. Simple practices, such as good hygiene, wearing breathable cotton underwear, avoiding panty liners where possible and not washing with soap or other irritating products, can contribute to a healthy vaginal environment. Additionally, understanding the importance of safe sexual practices and regular gynecological check-ups can further support vaginal health.


Gooey Tip 1: not comfortable with the amount of discharge in your underwear? Pack a spare pair of undies to change into rather than wearing a panty liner - tie the used pair in a knot to wash later. It’s important to let your vagina breathe to avoid conditions like thrush.  

By shedding light on the topic of vaginal discharge, we hope to demystify and normalise this natural bodily function. Understanding and being in awe of (not embarrassed of) the variations in discharge is empowering - help spread this simple yet vital education (why we don’t learn this at school is mind-boggling). Let’s strive for knowledge, awareness, and a future where open discussions about women’s health are the norm.


The Gooey Tip 2: make it a habit to look at your vulva with a mirror so that you know what your “normal” looks like. Take note of the colours, textures and amounts of discharge taking place. 

Check out: Embody Vulva Mirror


Disclaimer: The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and should not substitute professional medical advice. If you have concerns about your vaginal health, please consult a healthcare provider.

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