Written by Yoppie
30 Aug 2021
What is discharge?
What is arousal fluid?
What is cervical fluid?
How do I know the difference?
What if my ‘fluids’ differ from normal?
Ever wondered what that moistness is inside your pants? Actually, getting wet could be several different things depending on where you are in your cycle. If you’re confused about the difference between cervical fluid, discharge, and the stuff that comes out when you’re ‘in the mood’, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s play… name that wetness!
Discharge is a word that covers all manner of wetness, but if we’re getting specific about what vaginal discharge actually is, it’s a fluid that keeps the vagina clean, moist and protected from infection. Vaginal discharge tends to become more obvious before a person gets their first period, sometimes up to 6 months before, and like most menstrual cycle functions, it’s all to do with hormones so it may change in colour and consistency throughout your life.
In general, healthy discharge is clear or white-ish in colour (often likened to egg whites), may have a slight odour but nothing too overpowering, and sometimes leaves a yellow stain on your underwear. It varies in colour, and if it’s a little pink this can mean there is some blood mixed in from your period or spotting around certain times in your cycle.
If you’re pregnant, you may find your body producing more vaginal discharge than usual, but that’s normal. Those going through menopause may find that hormones cause their body to produce little to no discharge. Also normal.
Ah yes, the sexy kind of fluid! The increase in wetness that happens when you’re sexually aroused can be attributed to fluid being released from the specialised glands around the vulva and vagina, such as theBartholin’s glands and Skene’s glands. Its purpose is to lubricate the vagina to make it easier for things to slide on in there, like a penis, for example. This decreases the risk of friction or any skin tears. After sex is over, it tends to disappear within about an hour. Convenient stuff.
Those taking hormone replacement therapy may find they have an increase in vaginal wetness, and this is due to higher oestrogen levels that cause the glands to produce more fluid.
Cervical fluid is a mucous-y type of discharge containing carbohydrates, proteins and amino acids, and changes in colour, texture and consistency throughout your cycle due to hormone fluctuations. It comes from the cervix (hence the name), and we say cervical fluid, but it’s more like mucus and can feel sticky to the touch.
During the ovulation part of your cycle, you may notice it becomes more noticeable, thinner and more watery in consistency, which can help to identify peak fertility. Your cervical fluid shows up during this time to help you get pregnant, as the texture and pH of the mucus is designed to allow sperm into the uterus, making these your most fertile days.
When your oestrogen levels are highest, cervical fluid becomes more watery in its consistency, so you may find your underwear feels wetter when this happens. Also, if you take birth control pills, these can thicken your cervical fluid so sperm are unable to pass through it and reach an egg, and you may find it has a different consistency when you’re on the pill.
It’s not always clear what the wetness is, but let’s summarise some of the characteristics:
Mostly, any kind of vaginal discharge is pretty standard and consistent. The only things that may change are the amount coming out of the vagina (for example, when you’re ovulating, breastfeeding, sexually aroused, etc.) and the colour, depending on what stage of your menstrual cycle you’re in. This is normal. You may notice changes in the smell too, but it shouldn’t be too drastic.
You never need to panic if anything does change with your vaginal discharge, as most things can be cleared up with a visit to the doctor, but don’t put this off. If you notice anything abnormal or feel any pain, itching or burning, you might have an infection or another condition that needs to be checked over by your GP.
Watch out for discharge that’s grey in colour, as this could be a sign of bacterial vaginosis (BV), or greenish discharge could be a sign of an sexually transmitted infection (STI). Common conditions like vulvovaginal thrush can change your discharge to a thick, white, cottage-cheese-like consistency, which is easily treated with an antifungal treatment. Any dramatic change in your discharge, as well as things like bleeding between periods or after sex, pain when going to the bathroom, or pain in your abdomen or pelvis area should get checked out by a healthcare professional.
Do you have questions about any of the above types of wetness? Slip and slide into our DMs! We’re always up for answering your questions on our private Facebook group or on Instagram at @itsyoppie, so let us know what’s on your mind. Don't forget that our personalised period box can get organic tampons, PMS supplements and more delivered easily and regularly through your letterbox, so that's one load off your mind about everything that might be going on down there.
Fact checked by Doctor Samantha Miller.
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