What Is Vaginal Discharge?

Vaginal discharge is fluid that comes from the vagina. You might see this on the toilet paper when you wipe, or in your underwear.

Normal vaginal discharge has several purposes: cleaning and moistening the vagina, and helping to prevent and fight infections. It's normal for the color, texture, and amount of vaginal discharge to change at different times of the month during a girl's menstrual cycle. But some changes in discharge may mean there is a problem.

What Is Normal Vaginal Discharge?

Normal vaginal discharge can be:

  • somewhat thin, sticky, and elastic
  • thick and gooey

For some girls, it's normal to have a lot of vaginal discharge. They may even need to wear a pantiliner to keep their underwear dry. Other girls may not have much vaginal discharge at all.

Vaginal fluids should be clear, white, or off-white in color.

What Are the Signs of a Problem with Vaginal Discharge?

These signs can mean there's a problem with a girl's discharge:

  • a change in odor, especially an unpleasant odor
  • a change in color, especially greenish, grayish, or anything looking like pus
  • a change in texture, such as foamy or looking like cottage cheese
  • vaginal itching, burning, swelling, or redness
  • vaginal bleeding or spotting that is not a menstrual period

What Can Cause Changes in Vaginal Discharge?

Infections are the most common cause of unusual vaginal discharge. These infections include:

What Should I Do If I Notice a Change in My Vaginal Discharge?

If you think your vaginal discharge has changed, make an appointment with your doctor right away. This is especially important if you've had sex because it could be a sign of an STD. Most causes of vaginal discharge can be treated.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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