woman with green undewear wondering about the color of her vaginal discharge

The following is a transcript:

Hi, I’m Nurse Barb: I’m a practicing women’s health nurse practitioner. And in today’s episode, we’re going to talk about the 10 most asked questions about vaginal discharge.

Is it normal? What is this in my underwear? I mean, who hasn’t looked down and thought, gosh, should I be concerned about this? And what does this color mean? So why do we have discharge? Well, the cells inside your vagina are just like the cells inside your nose, right? And your nose makes mucus will. So does your vagina. It’s kind of a self cleaning organ, if you will. So whatever you put into your vagina, chances are it’s also going to come out and your vaginal discharge is influenced by a lot of other things. 

Women are always asking me, what does white discharge mean? Well, with white discharge, it has to do with your menstrual cycle. So before you ovulate your body’s making a lot of estrogen. So you may see a white pasty discharge in your underwear. Women want to know, well, what about yellow discharge? When it’s yellow? That means your post ovulation or your after ovulation and your cervix, which is the top part of your uterus here, I’ll show you. So in this model, you can see the uterus and at the very bottom of it is the cervix. Well, the cervix produces a lot of mucus and after ovulation, that mucus turns thick and yellow, and it comes down the vagina and into your underwear.

What about clear, thin egg, white discharge, that discharges ovulatory mucus and that mucus is coming from the cervix. And what’s important about it is it’s got a lot of glucose in it that helps nourish sperm, and it helps women get pregnant. Many moms call me and they ask, “Oh my gosh, my daughter who’s 10 or 11 is starting to notice, just charge in her underwear. Is this normal? What does this mean?” And I like to reassure them before a girl starts having her period. Oftentimes she’ll notice that white pasty discharge, that means that she’s starting to have a little bit of estrogen in her system and her body’s kind of turning on and getting ready to have a period. Is it ever normal not to have discharge? Well, I was with a group of new moms the other day, and most of them were breastfeeding, breastfeeding moms.

I don’t have a lot of vaginal discharge. In fact, their vaginas can be really, really dry. And that’s because the prolactin that makes milk, it inhibits estrogen. And so women have a lot less discharge and a lot less natural lubrication. So some of the other questions that come up all the time about discharges, all right, I know I’m supposed to have some pink discharge or some bloody discharge with my period, but what’s up with this dark brown stuff that we find after our periods, this came up the other day with a patient. She wasn’t sure she said, it looks like it’s the dark sand or coffee grounds in my underwear. What’s up with that? Well, if you have a little tiny bit of blood and it takes a long time for it to get out of the body, it gets oxidized. So that blood turns brown and oftentimes women find this kind of Brown coffee ground like discharge in their underwear.

It’s kind of weird, isn’t it? But it’s perfectly normal. Another question that comes up all the time is what’s not normal for discharge. Well, if you see green discharge or a lot of thick yellow discharge in your underwear, or you have any itching or burning, or you notice a fishy like odor, that’s the time to go see your healthcare provider and get that discharge evaluated. Another question that comes up all the time is well, does my contraception does that interfere with my discharge? And the answer is yes. And many women who are on the birth control pill. They don’t notice any discharge at all, but women who are using a progesterone containing IUD, or like my patient, Jeanette who gets Depo-Provera injections, she has a lot of thick yellow discharge. And that’s because when women are using a progesterone containing contraceptive, it takes that cervical mucus.

Again, it makes it super yellow and super thick. And some of it comes out. I know a lot of you have questions about sex and discharge. Well, remember your vagina is a self-cleaning Oregon. So anything you put in is likely to come out. That means if you’re using a lubricant or your partners using a lubricated condom, or you’re inserting anything like a toy into your vagina, chances are your vagina is going to react to it and create some discharge. And that brings up another question. A lot of women want to know about the vaginal biome and how to keep their vaginas healthy. You probably know that your vagina is a very delicate ecosystem and there’s a universe of micro micro organisms, uh, known as lactobacilli inside the vagina. What do they do? Well, they’re healthy. They’re beneficial bacteria that keep the pH very low or very acidic.

And that prevents the overgrowth of more pathogenic bacteria that can cause odor itching or infection. So with a vaginal microbiome, many of my patients say, well, how do I make that healthy? The best thing you can do is eat a healthy diet, get plenty of rest and be careful about what you put inside your vagina. Women are asking me all the time, should I be using a Jade egg? Should I be putting garlic or yogurt inside my vagina to help my vaginal biome be healthy? And the answer is no, don’t put those things inside the vagina. I get that we all want to be super healthy and supernatural, but I have patients who come in, they’ve put tea, tree oil in their vaginas. They’ve used something that they’ve read about and it tends to cause more infections. So another big issue that comes up with a lot of my patients is they’ve been taught all of their life that douching is something that they should do for vaginal discharge. If they notice a fishy-like odor, they should wash it out, right? They should use the sentence. So, or use like a vinegar and water to clean out the vagina. But this is not true when we use a, it washes out yes, all the things causing the odor, but it also washes out all the good, healthy, beneficial bacteria. And it actually makes the odor worse over time. So my advice is don’t use scented subs. Don’t spend a lot of money on those feminine washes, and please don’t do shh, because it typically makes the discharge worse. So I hope you’ve learned a lot today in our 10 most asked questions about vaginal discharge. And as always, you can go to my website: NurseBarb.com for more information, take care, be well. And I’ll see you next time.

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