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What affects a woman’s vaginal discharge?

Renee E. Cotter, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
All women should have some discharge, especially in menstruating years due to hormones the body produces. Any discharge that causes pain, burning or itching needs to be evaluated by a gynecologist to make sure it isn’t an infection.
 
Discharge for a woman who is still having a cycle changes depending on if she is on contraception. A woman with no contraception will typically notice that her discharge changes. As she approaches ovulation, it will become loose, like the consistency of a raw egg white. Once ovulation occurs, discharge thickens and is a thick, smooth and white. Women on birth control pills will tend to have white discharge on thicker side similar to what women experience during ovulation, except it occurs all month long. Women with IUDs have a slightly heavier discharge.
 
Menopausal women who are not on HRT do not get much discharge, but if they have atrophic vaginitis, they may see a yellow-mustardy discharge because the vagina is dry.
Vaginal discharge is one of those things most women just don’t want to talk about. Many women are curious, however, to know if their discharge is normal and rightly so -- changes in vaginal discharge can teach a woman about her body, her fertility, and how to know when something might be wrong.

The vagina produces secretions to prevent it from becoming dry, as well as to maintain a healthy pH balance to fight off infection. Most women find that discharge changes over the course of a menstrual cycle and also as a result of aging. Many medications, overall health, and dietary and lifestyle choices also can affect a woman’s discharge. In general, women in their childbearing years will find that discharge is lightest during and just after a period, and creamier, more abundant or slippery as she approaches ovulation.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.