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     Unfortunately junior high health class did not do the vagina-having population a favor when educating our prepubescent minds on what was to come in our near future. But it’s 2021 my friends, and talking about what we have going on down there should no longer be a taboo subject, even if it is portrayed as vulgar in today’s society. Although one simple article can’t teach you everything, I pulled together basic facts and compiled a list of important — yet often overlooked— information to keep your vagina happy and healthy. 

 

     YES discharge is normal, but that doesn’t mean ALL discharge is normal

     Vaginal discharge can vary in color, texture, and smell. Below is a quick reference guide for normal, possibly abnormal, and definitely not normal discharge and what it means:

  • Normal:

    • White: 

      • White discharge is usually found around the beginning or the end of your cycle. Many women report having white appearing discharge during ovulation as well. 

    • Clear/watery: 

      • Clear and watery discharge is considered to be an every day type beat. This discharge will consist of good bacteria that help keep the pH of the vagina stable, as well as provide lubrication during sexual activity.  

    • Clear/stretching:

      • Essentially clear snot, is normal and caused by ovulation. 

  • Possibly abnormal:

    • White, chunky:

      • If your discharge comes out in clumps, as well as has a white/cloudy appearance (and a possible foul smell) this is a tell tale sign of an infection. Do not fret- more information on this topic is provided in the next section. 

    • Brown:

      • Although brown discharge may seem like it alludes to an underlying issue— it is usually okay:

        • At the end of your period, your discharge, which is actually blood, may appear a dark brown. This is because the blood is traveling at a lesser and slower rate, so it is more oxidized and therefore appears darker

        • In between cycles you may also notice a lite amount of brown discharge- which can be “spotting”. Spotting may or may not cause concern, depending on what point in life you are at. It is the release of a small amount of blood. This is medically termed implantation bleeding. It occurs at the beginning of pregnancy when the fertilized egg moves. But don’t freak out! Spotting can occur for many different reasons besides pregnancy, including the use of emergency contraceptives (Plan B) and starting oral contraceptives (birth control). 

  • Seek medical advice if:

    • Green:

      • If you go to the bathroom and your underwear looks like you spilt a matcha green tea latte down your pants, I would say it is safe to assume you are concerned. Green discharge is normally attributed to a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Definitely seek the advice of a doctor. 

    • Yellow or cloudy: 

      • This is another sign of infection, usually yeast or bacterial (the symptoms/discharge of these infections are hard to decipher between). 

 

Are you feeling dry or itchy down there? Let’s talk about why. 

     Feelings of itchiness and an overall dry vaginal reason can be caused by many things, most commonly an infection or improper hygiene techniques. This includes overwashing or using an agitating soap. When washing your vagina, certain soaps, especially those that are scented, are linked to drying out the area. It is best to do research before buying one of these products, as well as experiment with what works best for your body. Let’s also clear the air around vaginal infections. The female anatomy is extremely sensitive, and just because you acquire an infection does not mean you have poor hygiene, and your doctor is not going to think you are nasty and don’t shower. The vagina also needs to keep a stable pH, between about 3.8-4.5 to stay healthy and infection free. Anything higher (or less acidic) increases the risk for infection, and anything lower (more acidic) decreases fertility. Vaginal pH can get thrown off from things like unprotected sex, douching, periods, and taking antibiotics. Although there are preventative measures it is quite possible you could develop an infection to no fault of your own. However, incase that happens, it is best to be prepared with the information below:

  • Yeast

    • This is the vaginal infection most women are quite familiar with. It most notably includes a white chunky discharge, foul smell, and itching/burning sensation throughout the vaginal and anal region. It is caused by an overgrowth of yeast which can be from using hormonal birth control, douching, wet/tight clothing, and scented tampons (yes that’s right, your vagina is not meant to smell like the lavender growing in your grandma’s backyard on a crisp spring morning. Mass producing femine product factories are not naturally recreating this smell either, it’s like dipping your tampon in fresh smelling chemicals).These infections can be easily treated when seeing a doctor, and will most likely result in an antibiotic prescription and then it will be gone. They usually do not resolve on their own, either. Preventative measures include taking your birth control on time, avoid wearing thongs for long periods of time, and using a pH balanced feminine wash. 

  • Urinary Tract (UTI)

    • UTIs are also, and unfortunately, very common. They are usually identified with a burning (like a struck match to the vulva) sensation while peeing. If a UTI is left untreated, the infection can spread to the kidneys. If this happens you will most likely experience fever and nausea. UTIs are also treated with an antibiotic prescription, and it is best to act fast. For sexually active females, UTIs are usually acquired after (mainly unprotected) sex. The penis harbors its own bacteria that is foreign to the vagina. Peeing after sex, not holding in your pee, and properly washing your feminine area can prevent these infections. 

  • Sexually Transmitted (STI)

    • If you experience rashes, abnormal discharge, pain, or itching in your genital area it is best to have a check up with your doctor. As I am sure you have heard, these infections can grow to be quite serious if left untreated. The wide range of STIs also have a wide range of treatment options that vary based on your diagnosis. Unfortunately the only preventative measures are getting to know your partner, as well as condoms can SOMETIMES prevent SOME STIs. 

  • Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

    • BV is a bacterial infection in the vagina. Although the vagina does have its own “good” bacteria, when the balance gets thrown off it can result in an infection. Unfortunately the symptoms of an STI, UTI, yeast infection, and BV are all quite similar. BV can result in foul smelling discharge, as well as burning and itching sensations. Women are at higher risk if they are sexually active or douche (Which flushes out all- including the good bacteria, leaving the vagina with no immune defense). It has also been reported that once you have acquired an infection, you are more susceptible to getting them again in the future. Your doctor will work out the best treatment course for you. 

 

     The female vagina is a complicated and sensitive piece of our anatomy. Although it usually can clean/take care of itself, it is important to look for the subtle, and very obvious signs to go to the doctor. I hope this article has been informative on vaginal health, and helped open up the topic for further discussion. I feel that all women should be watching what products they use, as well as practicing CLEAN sexual activities to prevent any situations that may throw your vag out of whack. Below are linked articles that provide more information on the topics discussed in this article: 

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