Like most women with other things going on in your life, you probably don’t give your vaginal discharge much thought.
As long as it looks and feels normal—that means clear or white and watery to slightly sticky, depending on where you are in your cycle—you have no reason to be concerned.
But when something in your undies looks or feels off, that sounds alarm bells.
Maybe there’s a lot more of it than usual, the color is weird, or you’re hit with a whiff of an odor that you know can’t be good.
Before you panic and buy out all the creams and sprays in your local pharmacy’s lady aisle, read these 6 things your vagina may be trying to tell you:
1. It’s Clear to White, Wet, and Stretchy
Most Likely: Ovulation. This slippery discharge appears during the middle of your cycle; it’s your body’s way of making it easier for sperm to slide into your vagina and fertilize an egg.
“Discharge at ovulation can be copious,” says Dr. Alyssa Dweck, ob-gyn and coauthor of V Is for Vagina. “I often hear from patients who are worried something is wrong, but it’s normal.” No wonder this type of sex is the kind women prefer when they’re ovulating!2. It’s White, Clumpy, and Really Itchy
Most Likely: A yeast infection, one that’s caused by an overgrowth of the yeast that normally helps balance the bacteria in your vagina.
“There’s usually a lot of cottage-cheese looking discharge,” says Dr. Alyssa Dweck. “And while it doesn’t have an odor, it’s accompanied by killer itching of the outer or inner labia.”
A yeast infection is incredibly common and can be caused by a ton of things, such as taking antibiotics or sitting around in your damp gym clothes.
“Yeast love warm, moist environments,” says Dr. Alyssa Dweck. Pick up an OTC anti-yeast cream, or ask your doctor about an antifungal prescription that ends the infection without any mess.
3. It’s Yellowish-Green and Possibly Stings a Little
Most Likely: Chlamydia or gonorrhea, two common bacterial STDs. Other signs of either infection include pelvic pain and burning while urinating—but scarily, most women have no symptoms.
Once your doctor diagnoses chlamydia or gonorrhea, they’re easily cured with antibiotics.
Thing is, you have to get your man to see a doctor, as well.
Both partners need to be cured, or you’ll keep passing either infection back and forth to each other.
4. It’s Grayish, Thin, and Has a Strong Odour
Most Likely: Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). The odour is the defining trait—it’s kind of a foul, fish-like smell.
We know—not something you want a whiff of when you take off your undies. BV is also very common (it’s the most common v33ginal infection among women ages 15 to 44, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and is easily cured with prescription meds once your doctor diagnoses it.It’s a bit of a mystery why some women develop BV, but it generally means that something has upset the bacterial balance in your vagina, though experts aren’t always sure what.
5. It’s Frothy, Has an Unpleasant Odor, and Is Tinged Gray or Green
Most Likely: Trichomoniasis. It’s the most common curable STD, according to the CDC, yet you don’t have to have sex to catch it. “Trichomoniasis is caused by an organism that can live on towels, vibrators, and other inanimate objects,” says Dr. Alyssa Dweck.
Equally as alarming, most men and women who have it don’t show symptoms—but if left untreated, it can make it easier for a woman to contract HIV and affect her baby’s health if she is pregnant, reports the CDC. The good news is that it can be treated and cured with a prescription pretty quickly.
6. It’s Bloody
Most Likely: Breakthrough bleeding, which often happens during the first few months after a woman goes on the Pill, as her body adjusts to the new hormones.
If it’s dark red or brownish-colored discharge, it could simply be leftover blood from your period that took its time leaving your vagina. In rare cases, bloody discharge can signal something more threatening—
for example, a precancerous cervical lesion. “Let your doctor know, so she can check you out and rule out a serious issue,” says Dr. Alyssa Dweck.