Even the most body-positive person in the world may still get a bit embarrassed by certain medical questions. Knowing when you should worry about vagina discharge and what may signal a problem is a pretty important aspect of most women’s health, but discussing this stuff with anyone might leave you feeling grossed out. But it’s actually a good way to keep an eye on your health, so knowing about the potential warning signs of discharge is smart.

Whether you’re worried about a potential STD or other health concerns, there are some common signs to look out for. Even something as run-of-the-mill as a yeast infection could affect this area. And through the course of your cycle, its appearance might change when you’re ovulating or switching methods of birth control. Who knew this often overlooked stuff could contain such a great deal of information about your health?

Of course, if you suspect something is amiss, don’t hesitate to discuss your concerns with your physician. (No reason to feel embarrassed; healthcare workers have seen it all.) Staying educated about all the aspects of your health is always a good idea, so here’s to learning about the health signs that probably weren’t taught in any class.

What's Normal?

Kristian Niemi

According to the Mayo Clinic, normal vaginal discharge is just a collection of fluids and cells that gets shed as the vagina goes about its business. It may range from a whitish consistency to more of a clear fluid. Furthermore, as the Kinley Health Center explains, the consistency may vary in conjunction with your menstrual cycle, running more clear around the middle of your period. This is all just a part of the way the vagina cleans itself and is 100 percent normal. Interestingly, as the U.S. National Library of Medicine outlines, you may have more than normal amounts of discharge if you're stressed, ovulating, pregnant, or aroused.

What May Be A Problem?

Virtual EyeSee

Infections may affect the discharge's color, smell, or texture, as the Mayo Clinic notes. If the discharge is odorless but starts having a consistency similar to cottage cheese, then you may have a yeast infection, a type of fungal infection that affects around 75 percent of women at some point in their lives. And some symptoms of bacterial vaginosis, a common type of bacterial infection, include discharge that has a strong, foul odor, as STD-gov reports. If either of these sound familiar, then a trip to your physician can probably help get everything back to normal.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) may also result in abnormal discharge. As the CDC reports, yellow or green discharge, itching, or odor may indicate the presence of an STD, such as trichomoniasis, chlamydia or gonorrhoea. Trichomoniasis is a common curable STD caused by a parasite, while chlamydia — also curable — is another very common STD caused by bacterial infections. Lastly, gonorrhoea is another common bacterial STD that may also be cured with the proper treatment.

Although these infections are commonplace and treatable, it is important that you see your doctor right away if you think these diseases may be the cause of your abnormal discharge. For instance, the CDC notes that if left untreated, chlamydia may cause damage to your reproductive system or lead to an ectopic pregnancy (one that occurs outside the womb). And untreated gonorrhea may lead to problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease.

Overall, knowing the difference between normal and abnormal discharge can let you know when to relax, and when a doctor's visit might be in order. Who knew this stuff was such a helpful indicator of good health?