When you think about it, human bodies are amazing mechanisms, made up of tons of parts that work in sync to keep us alive and healthy. And if you happen to have a reproductive system that can, sometimes, be used to create life, it's astonishing to learn how it keeps itself clean and lubricated. So while there's stigma abound when it comes to vaginal health (or just vaginas in general), what our vaginal discharge really means can cue us in on a number of things our bodies are likely trying to tell us about our health and wellbeing.
Contrary to popular belief, most of the time discharge is nothing to worry about, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). The vagina normally produces a water-based secretion that serves to keep the genitals clean and remove dead cells from the vaginal lining. The estrogen produced by our bodies also support the growth of healthy bacteria in the vagina, which keeps the pH levels slightly acidic and wards off unhealthy microorganisms that can lead to illness.
Normal vaginal discharge is clear or white, with no odor. During your period, of course, your body expels the blood from your uterine lining, so your discharge can appear bright or dark red. But any time you notice a change in the color, odor, or amount of vaginal secretions, particularly if you also have symptoms such as fever, vaginal, or vulvar itching, or burning during urination or sex, something's out of whack.
These are some of the most common changes you might see in your vaginal discharge. Some are no big deal, while others require a doctor's attention.