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Let’s Talk Discharge! And how it changes throughout your menstrual cycle

Let’s Talk Discharge! And how it changes throughout your menstrual cycle

Written by Yoppie

23 Jun 2022

What actually IS discharge?

What should it look like during the follicular and ovulation phases?

What about in the luteal phase?

And in the menstruation phase?

Should there be discharge if I’m pregnant?

When should I worry about discharge??

We’ve all been ignoring that stuff in our pants for too long! OK fine, it’s a bit icky. And sure, nobody really likes it - but it’s not going anywhere, and it can actually tell you a lot about where you are in your cycle, what’s going on with your hormones, and could even alert you to some health conditions. Let’s talk about all the different types of discharge you’ll find throughout your cycle. 

What actually IS discharge?

From the time you go through puberty and start getting your period, you’ll probably notice discharge appears. This slippery liquid is made of fluids from the cervix, uterus and vagina, and has a few useful reasons for hanging out in there - keeping the vagina free from infections, making sex easier, helping sperm reach the egg during conception, and alerting you to any menstrual health concerns. Depending on the stage of your cycle, you may experience discharge that: 

  • Is clear or white in colour
  • Has a mild odour
  • Leaves a yellowish stain on your underwear

What should it look like during the follicular and ovulation phases?

Discharge looks different for everyone, but in general, during the follicular phase you may see around 3-5 days of clear or cloudy discharge that feels a bit slippery and could look like egg whites. This happens when an egg is developing, and during this time you could get up to 30 times your usual amount of daily discharge! This type of slippery discharge appears specifically during this time in your cycle in order to help support the efforts of any sperm trying to make it to the egg.

What about in the luteal phase?

During the luteal phase discharge tends to change again once ovulation is over. If it seemed clear and slippery in the previous phase, you may notice your discharge returning to a white-ish colour due to the progesterone rising and overtaking as the main hormone in this phase. The volume of discharge tends to decrease from here on, and becomes more thick in consistency and possibly even sticky like glue. This can last up to 14 days.

And in the menstruation phase?

Then when the discharge starts to ease, it’s time for menstruation! Right before your period begins, you may notice mucus that’s a little yellow in colour, and right after your period you might see some brown discharge - this is actually dried blood that’s settled in your system during menstruation. Although it can look a little gross, it’s nothing to worry about. And of course, during your period you’re likely to bleed and see some bloody discharge. 

Should there be discharge if I’m pregnant?

It’s very typical to notice more vaginal discharge during pregnancy, and your body produces this on purpose to prevent any infections travelling from the vagina up to the uterus where the fetus is developing. 

As you progress in your pregnancy, you may see the amount of discharge increase due to rising oestrogen hormones, and in the last few weeks of your pregnancy this discharge may contain streaks of pink, jelly-like mucus (lovely!) that feels sticky. This is called a "show", and it’s normal. It’s what happens when the cervical mucus comes away towards the end of pregnancy, and can be a sign your body is starting to prep itself for labour and childbirth. 

When should I worry about discharge??

For some, discharge can look a little yellow which may seem worrying, but typically a light shade of yellow is nothing to stress over unless it’s accompanied by other symptoms. If it’s a darker yellow colour or has a green tinge to it, this may be a sign of an STI (sexually transmitted infection), and will require a visit to your doctor. 

Grey vaginal discharge may also be a sign of an infection like bacterial vaginosis (BV). If you notice grey discharge along with itching, irritation, a strong smell or redness around the vagina, you should visit your doctor to start the appropriate treatment. 

If your discharge has changed from what it normally looks like, other symptoms to watch out for are fatigue, a fever, abdominal pain, rashes, sores or blisters, pain during or after sex, or anything else that could indicate an infection. No matter what colour your discharge is, if it has a cottage cheese-like consistency or a strong smell, this could be a sign of an infection like thrush and should be checked by a doctor or at a sexual health clinic. 

If you want a more in-depth lesson on all things vaginal discharge, check out our YouTube channel for a ‘Check-up with Dr. Brooke Vandermolen’! And remember, some people find discharge embarrassing, but it’s a perfectly normal part of your cycle, and healthy discharge is a sign that everything is working as it should be, so… here’s to gloopy pants!

Want to know which stage of your cycle you’re in right now? Our website has a short Learn Your Phase questionnaire to help you learn more. We love to help people tackle the symptoms associated with the entire cycle - not just the bleed days - so whatever your symptoms or cycle goals are, we’ve got you. 

Do you have a question about discharge? Ask away in our Full Stop FB group, or reach out to the team on IG at @itsyoppie so we can help. 

Don't forget that our personalised menstrual cycle subscription box can get organic tampons, PMS supplements and much more delivered easily and regularly through your letterbox, to give you just a bit more peace of mind each cycle.

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