Let’s be clear about one thing first, ladies: discharge is completely normal. But is there ever a time to worry?
According to NYC-based Gynecologist Maiquel Carrasco, there are key factors that contribute to the amount, color, odor and consistency of your discharge. “A misconception among women is that once discharge is spotted, there lies a breeding infection. That is not always the case,” Dr. Carrasco said.
Here are a few causes of discharge and what it’s trying to tell you:
1) Age affects discharge. For example, hormones are just starting to work in a pre-pubescent girl, so discharge is highly unusual at this age. If a girl is experiencing discharge so young, it could be an indicator of infection. Vaginal discharge is meant to be present from your teenage years through the beginning of menopause and its job is to chase away bacteria, as well as clean up any dead cells remaining after times such as having a baby.
2) Engaging in excessive sexual activity can also increase vaginal discharge. “Many women in their 20s come to their appointments and report having increased vaginal discharge,” Dr. Carrasco shared. “The first thing I ask them is if they have a new boyfriend. Having too much sex can cause inflammation and lead to the over-production of dead cells. I advise those patients to enjoy sex responsibly, and add an over the counter lubricant to decrease the friction. Also, be advised that you can expect a natural increase in discharge around the time you ovulate.”
3) The color and consistency of your discharge could be saying a lot. Dr. Carrasco says that it is very important to examine the color and viscosity of your discharge, as those observations can help you decipher the discharge dilemma yourself. Carrasco explains that mucous-like to milky discharge is completely normal, and it should not cause irritation. If you have irritation, most likely you have an infection and should consult your physician.
Gray or yellow discharge coupled with an unpleasant odor and/or irritation could also be indicators for infection, and should be discussed with a physician.
4) While pregnant, your body is a factory of hormones and this could lead to an unsteady fluctuation in discharge production.
5) “Pantiliners are my pet peeve,” Dr. Carrasco said. “Do not wear pant liners everyday ladies! Pantiliners were created for light menstrual cycle days or spotting, not to keep panties clean. If you put a pantiliner on your underwear, you’re basically putting on a diaper and you can expect diaper rash-like irritation as a result. Wearing a pantiliner blocks the airflow needed to produce discharge, which is meant to clean the vagina. The vagina needs air ventilation and panties are made to allow that air to circulate. If you cover the crotch area of your underwear, you’re creating a blockage of air, which can lead to increased discharge, irritation and ultimately infection. “
Dr. Maiquel Carrasco is a Dominican American physician who shares a practice with his wife on the Upper East Side of New York City.