A brownish discoloration of the discharge is initially no cause for concern. Brown discharge is not uncommon, especially after menstruation, as blood residue is still being shed. In addition, brown discharge can appear during ovulation or be a sign of an early stage of pregnancy. So if brown discharge doesn’t come with other symptoms like itching or a strange smell, there’s nothing to worry about. However, if there are symptoms such as abdominal pain or fever, it should be examined.
If yellow discharge occurs in connection with painful urination and a changed smell and/or itching, this can be a sign of a chlamydia, gonorrhea or trichomoniasis infection – it is better to have this clarified.
Green discharge usually leaves little room for interpretation and is a pretty sure sign of infection or an STD. The motto here is: off to the doctor, especially if there is additional pain.
If you’re itchy and notice discharge that’s grayish, watery, and smells faintly fishy (which is the only time discharge smells fishy, by the way!), you’ve almost certainly contracted bacterial vaginosis. It’s not dramatic, if left untreated it just becomes very uncomfortable at some point.
Crumbly dry discharge
Yeast infections are among the most common vaginal infections and, like bacterial vaginosis, are easily treated. So if you suffer from white, dry, crumbly discharge in connection with severe itching and redness of the vulva, you have probably caught an unproblematic but annoying fungus.
What is cervical mucus?
Discharge, as mentioned earlier, consists largely of what is called cervical mucus, which is produced by glands in the cervix. This mucus allows sperm to enter the uterus so they can reach the egg at the time of ovulation. The cervical mucus depends on the fluctuations in the sex hormones within the menstrual cycle. Depending on the cycle phase, the cervical mucus makes it easier or more difficult for sperm to get into the uterus.
This is how the discharge changes over the course of the cycle
Since discharge consists mainly of cervical mucus, it changes accordingly with the different phases of the cycle. Because of this, vaginal discharge first appears before the first menstrual period and remains a constant companion until menopause. If you want to track your cycle, for example to find out when your fertile days are, you can use the cervical mucus as a guide:
You don’t have a discharge during your menstrual period, so it’s normal to feel a bit drier shortly after your period. However, if the estrogen level then rises again towards the middle of the cycle, the body produces more vaginal secretions. The discharge is therefore less liquid and milky at first.
The middle of the cycle
Shortly before ovulation, around five to six days before, the fertile phase of the cycle begins, and it can get wet in your panties. The cervical mucus is now much thicker, more fluid, stretchy and clear. Estrogen levels peak a day or two before ovulation, which is when the discharge resembles raw egg white. “Discharge changes throughout the cycle and becomes ‘spinning’ around ovulation. If you move the discharge between your index finger and thumb, a thread is formed. In this way you can check whether ovulation has already taken place or not,” says Prof. Dr. Mandy Mangler.
After ovulation, the estrogen level crashes again, which means that the cervical mucus also decreases – the infertile phase begins. The discharge is white again, sticky-thick, almost lumpy. Everything quite normal.
Contraception with the pill or other hormonal contraceptives
Of course, these cycle-related changes only occur during a natural cycle. Anyone who uses hormonal contraception, for example the pill, experiences hardly any change in the discharge, which is similar in consistency and color to that of the infertile phase. Anyone who decides that they no longer want to use hormonal contraception is often surprised by wet panties in the middle of the cycle.