Sadly, vaginal discharge still causes many of us to feel embarrassed or worried that our discharge is not normal. Discharge is broad term which refers to fluid which comes from the vagina. It is our bodies way of cleaning itself and of supporting the menstrual cycle- which is super cool! These amazing abilities are rarely discussed and we are made to think discharge is something which should not exist.
Vaginal discharge is completely normal and most people with a vagina will get it.
Discharge refers to any non-period fluid that leaves your vagina. Now let’s get a little science-y. A large component of discharge is cervical fluid which is produced by the cells of your cervix. This fluid changes during your cycle due to hormonal changes to support possible fertilisation. To start with we are going to explore the changes to cervical fluid during your cycle because Floco think the INCREDIBLE capabilities of our bodies are not celebrated enough…
Changes during stages of the menstrual cycle…
- Start of your cycle (menstruation or your period)
- You are unlikely to notice any fluid due to your period
- Just after your period
- Most will not notice too much discharge or cervical fluid until estrogen levels are higher.
- In the lead up to ovulation cervical fluid is likely to be sticky and white…
- The cervix will begin to produce more fluid as estrogen levels begin to rise in the lead up to ovulation. The fluid is likely to be sticky and thick to start with and become more wet and creamy. It may look whitish or cloudy and you are likely to start noticing it on day 9/10 of your cycle.
- Around ovulation cervical fluid will become ‘eggy’, wet, slippery, clear or stretchy
- As ovulation approaches, much more cervical fluid is produced and your vagina will likely feel more wet. The fluid is more slippery. Over a couple of days, the fluid will become more stretchy.
- 1-2 days before ovulation, cervical fluid will look like raw egg white. The amount of fluid varies between each individual but there can be between 10 and 20 times more fluid than other points in your cycle.
- Luteal Phase cervical fluid is likely to be sticky or absent
- After ovulation, cervical fluid changes again. The amount of fluid will decrease rapidly and fluid may also become sticky, tacky or dry/absent.
Your cycle then repeats
IMPORTANT: Every person is wonderfully unique. These changes may be different for you and will change at different points of your life as your cycle changes.
Floco find these changes pretty incredible. But why do they happen?
Cervical fluid aids fertility by creating a fertility window that is much longer than the 12-24 hours that an egg can actually be fertilised.
Sperm that enters the vagina before ovulation can be held in the fluid allowing it to survive longer in the vagina which would usually be acidic. Sperm can swim through the ‘creamy discharge’ from about day 9 of the cycle. When ovulation does occur the fluid present is the easiest for sperm to swim through.
Cervical fluid also has a super role of ‘filtering’ the ‘best sperm’. Slower sperm and sperm with other structural or mobility abnormalities get left behind in the fluid.
After the fertilisation period has passed, the fluid once again acts to prevent sperm from entering the upper reproductive tract.
Other changes to vaginal discharge
Changes to your vaginal discharge pattern can also be the sign of other things including infections or hormonal issues. Hormonal issues will usually also include changes to your cycle more generally, e.g. changes to the length of your cycle and period.
‘Abnormal discharge’ could be a sign that you may have an infection. These changes include:
- Changes to colour (grey, yellow or brown)
- Changes in consistency (becoming more clumpy, or very watery)
- Changes in smell (fishy, metallic or different)
- Changes in volume
Abnormal discharge is more common than you may think and is nothing to be embarrassed of. Floco recommend you visit a health professional who will be happy to talk through any questions with you and get you the solution required. – we promise its not embarrassing, they have heard it all before! (Tips talking to your health professional)