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Safety and Wellness

What's Vaginal Discharge?

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Discharge (say: DIS-charge) is a strange word, isn't it? It means something that is pushed out. Vaginal discharge means the fluid or mucus stuff that comes out of a girl's vagina. She might see it or feel it on her underpants.

About 6 months to a year before a girl gets her first period, her body may start to produce vaginal discharge. This is normal and is caused by the changing level of hormones in a girl's body. This discharge helps to keep the vagina healthy. Girls continue to have vaginal discharge after they get their periods. Women also have this discharge, which continues until menopause, when their bodies don't make as much of it.

Normal vaginal fluids can vary. They might be thin and slightly sticky to thick and gooey. They can be clear to white or off-white in color. The amount of discharge can also vary depending upon a girl's menstrual cycle. For example, fluids tend to be a bit heavier around the time a girl ovulates (say: AHV-yuh-lates), which is when an egg is released from the ovary and moves into the fallopian tube.

Normal discharge should have a slight odor and should never cause itching or burning. Problems like itching, a strong odor, or a change in color (such as brown, gray, or green) indicate that a girl may have a vaginal infection and needs to see a doctor.

For normal discharge, a girl can wear a pantiliner if that makes her more comfortable. Sometimes the moisture from normal vaginal discharge can irritate the skin. You can prevent skin irritation in the vaginal area, especially when it's hot and humid outside, by wearing cotton underwear and avoiding clothes like tight jeans and pantyhose that don't let your skin breathe.

It is also important to keep your body clean by bathing on a regular basis. You don't need to do anything special to keep this part of your body clean. Just soap and water does the trick.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: September 2011

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995–2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.

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