Is my vaginal discharge normal?

Vaginas are supposed to have discharge. This is a fluid called vaginal or cervical mucus, discharge or secretions. It’s a normal part of how the vagina works and helps keep your genitals clean and healthy.

Changes in your discharge can be a sign of an infection. So it’s a good idea to know what is typical for you.

It’s normal to have discharge, in fact, it’s a good thing! Fluids in the vagina keep it clean and protect it from infection, by maintaining a healthy pH balance. This helps good bacteria flourish and stops bad bacteria from growing. The fluid also lubricates the vagina, keeping you comfortable - especially during sex. It’s not something to worry about or be embarrassed about.

Vaginal discharge can look clear or white. It does not have an unpleasant or strong smell. And it can feel thick and sticky or slippery and wet.

Everyone’s vagina is different, which means everyone’s discharge is different too. And you might notice that yours changes throughout the month.

For example, when you ovulate, you may notice it goes clear or white and gets more slippery. This is because the hormonal changes during your menstrual cycle create changes in your vaginal fluid.

Hormonal contraceptives work to stop or reduce this and also affect ovulation, so if you’re starting or stopping hormonal contraceptives you’ll probably notice changes to your vaginal discharge.

There may also be a few days before or after your period when you don’t have any discharge at all. Or it looks brownish as it mixes with blood from the start or end of your period. This can be followed by a few days where it’s thicker and more white or cream-coloured.

It’s healthy to have these types of discharge. If you try to wash it away, or overuse pantyliners, especially scented ones, this can cause problems. Never wash inside your vagina and wash the outside only.

Changes to get checked

Some STIs and other infections can affect your discharge. If you notice a change that’s unusual for you, it’s a good idea to see your doctor or go to a sexual health clinic, especially if you notice:

  • a strong fishy smell

  • thick, white clumpy discharge

  • green, yellow or frothy discharge

You should also go to your doctor or clinic if:

  • your vagina is itchy or painful

  • you bleed between periods or after sex

  • you get pain during or after sex

  • it hurts when you pee

  • you get pain in your pelvis or lower abdomen

Reviewed by Helen Burkitt. Senior Sexual Health and Contraception Nurse
Last updated at: 02 February 2024
Published on: 24 April 2023