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Health Library

    Normal Vaginal Discharge vs. Abnormal Discharge: What’s the Difference?

    Updated 12 March 2020 |
    Published 15 November 2018
    Fact Checked
    Kate Shkodzik, MD
    Reviewed by Kate Shkodzik, MD, Obstetrician and gynecologist
    Flo Fact-Checking Standards

    Every piece of content at Flo Health adheres to the highest editorial standards for language, style, and medical accuracy. To learn what we do to deliver the best health and lifestyle insights to you, check out our content review principles.

    Have you ever found a sticky substance in your underwear? What is it? Why does it happen? When is it abnormal? We’ll explain.

    The vagina is a complicated and dynamic ecosystem. It contains a lot of bacteria and moisture, and it’s sensitive to internal and external changes. Fluid made by glands in the cervix and vaginal opening and fluid made by vaginal walls carry away dead cells and bacteria to help keep the vagina clean. This fluid is called vaginal discharge. 

    Everyone’s body makes a different amount of discharge. Exercise, birth control pills, and stress can all cause changes in discharge too.

    You may occasionally notice a change in the color, amount, or odor of your vaginal discharge. Does this mean you have an infection? Not necessarily. There are lots of types of vaginal discharge. Some are normal, and others may indicate a problem.

    Check out this article for answers to common questions about normal and abnormal vaginal discharge.

    What does your discharge mean?

    Find out in the Flo app

    How to check your vaginal discharge

    Paying attention to your vaginal discharge is an important part of your health. Being familiar with your normal discharge — and its normal fluctuations — can help you detect abnormal vaginal discharge earlier and start treatment sooner. 

    Here are three ways to check your vaginal discharge:

    1. Before you pee, wipe the opening of your vagina with white toilet paper. Check the color, odor, and consistency. 
    2. Take a look at the color and texture of the vaginal discharge on your underwear. 
    3. Sit on the toilet, squat, or stand with one foot up on the toilet seat or bathtub. Insert one or two clean fingers into your vagina. Check the color and texture of the discharge on your fingers. 

    To best check the texture and consistency of the discharge, rub it and pull it between your thumb and index finger. Press your fingers together and slowly move them apart.

    It might be helpful to write down everything about your daily discharge on a chart (or you can track it in an app like Flo). What’s the color and consistency? How does it smell? Keep in mind that some medication may change your cervical fluids.

    Being familiar with your discharge can help you spot problems early. Regular pelvic exams are also important. 

    Log your discharge in the Flo app

    And figure out what's normal for you