5 minute read
Have you ever heard the phrase “the vagina is a self-cleaning oven”? Turns out, the vagina is a “self” a lot of things and you really can’t deny it when you start becoming fluent in the language of cervical fluid, aka discharge.
Discharge is a totally normal and necessary part of having a vagina, although it’s been steeped in shame and stigma pretty much always. Turns out, it’s always doing something to help you maintain optimal reproductive health without any help from scented douches or glitter suppositories.
So, here we go!
Healthy Discharge in Four Acts
Discharge is produced by hormone activated glands in the cervix. Because these glands are stimulating the cervix to create fluid, the amount and consistency will depend on where you are in your menstrual cycle (because hormones). Hopefully you’re already familiar with the four phases of the menstrual cycle because now we’re adding discharge footnotes to them!
During menstruation, since your hormones are at an all time low on day 1 of your cycle, the cervix will not be creating much or any fluid.
- End of Menstruation/Follicular
Once your period is over, estrogen is still working its way up to a higher level. This means the cervix will still be producing little to no discharge in the couple days after you’ve finished bleeding.
- Preparing To and Actually Ovulating
Leading up to ovulation, as estrogen is rising, discharge begins to appear wetter and creamier, like the consistency of lotion. Ovulation typically occurs around day 10 of your cycle (that’s ten days after the first day of your period), and if you are tracking your cycle you should be able to better pinpoint it for yourself.
The closer you get to ovulating, the slipperier and more stretchy discharge becomes and the colour gets progressively more transparent. Your vagina in general will most likely feel wetter during this time.
This is a good time to mention that discharge acts as both a barrier to and a carrier of sperm. Depending on where you are in your cycle, if sperm enters the chat then biology takes over and decides if the uterus is at it’s most ideal for pregnancy or not. It can attempt to block (it’s not full proof, obviously) or facilitate fertilization.
Now that ovulation is over, discharge says no ma’am to anything trying to get in (yeah, we’re still talking about sperm) and changes consistency once again to be thicker and somewhat coarse. The purpose of this is to create a barrier that is very difficult to get through. You might say your luteal discharge is like a bouncer and the sperm is the wannabe trying to get into the club that is your uterus.
During this time progesterone becomes the dominant hormone and acts to impede the cervix from releasing any fluid. As you approach menstruation discharge becomes dryer until barely present at all and then the whole cycle begins again with menstruation.
Should It Smell?
There have been zillions of jokes about vaginal odor and just as many unnecessary products created to combat it, but vaginas do have a smell along with most body parts. Basically, it should smell mildly acidic (like vinegar at the next table) and you should have to bring your underwear up to your face to be able to smell anything. If a more pungent odor is detected, there may be something wrong. Usually this will be accompanied by an all new texture of discharge featuring clumps.
For a real deep dive into discharge colour, texture and scent you can watch or listen to our Why So Mysterious? podcast episode, Healthy Vag: From Deadly Disease to Sparkling Clam!