Woman scratching her vaginal area through her nightgown

Vaginal discharge and odour: top facts

By Steph Haase November 15, 06:00 am
Vaginal discharge and smell can tell you a lot about your health, and even help you when you are trying to get pregnant. Get all the facts here!

Vaginal odour, or smell, is normal. Every vagina has its own, individual scent, and you shouldn't try to change or disguise it.

However, changes in odour can be a sign for something that's not right, so keep an eye, or a nose, on it.

What is vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge is the fluid that comes out of a woman’s vagina. Usually, it’s clear or whitish. The consistency of vaginal discharge can vary between thick and almost crumbly or even be similar to egg-white.

It is totally normal to discharge this fluid. Most women have it at least sometimes. Some women have discharge all the time, and yet others never have discharge. That’s all okay.

What does it do?

Have you ever heard someone say that the vagina can clean itself? That’s actually true and the reason for that is vaginal discharge. Its main function is to keep the vagina clean. It flushes away dead cells and bacteria and prevents infections. Not the sexiest thing, but pretty genius, isn’t it?

That’s why it’s so important to be gentle to your genitals. Keep in mind that discharge and smell are normal. Harsh soaps and douching can disturb the natural balance and cause discomfort.

Does it change throughout your cycle?

Over the course of your menstrual cycle, vaginal discharge changes considerably. For most days, it is sticky, milky, and whitish. Around the time a woman is ovulating and fertile, it will become clear and more gel-like. It’s also normal to have more discharge when you are ovulating, breastfeeding or very aroused. Women who go through menopause will usually have less discharge.

When should you see a doctor?

As vaginal discharge is perfectly normal and healthy, usually there is no need to discuss it with a doctor.
What may be normal for one woman may look completely different for another.

However, if you see any drastic changes in smell, colour or quantity, especially in combination with itching, pain or redness, it could be a sign of infection. In that case, you must consult your doctor and get it checked.

What can change vaginal discharge?

Infections and STDs can affect the colour or odour of your discharge. It may change even if you are taking antibiotics or using a new birth control method. Overdoing female genital hygiene (or not doing enough) can cause issues. Medical conditions, such as cervical cancer or diabetes can affect it. And a lot of other things.

It is very important to keep an eye on changes in discharge. Consider vaginal discharge as a mirror for your sexual health. This may still not make it sexy, but it is actually cool.

Vaginal odour

Every vagina has a natural smell. That's absolutely normal and nothing to worry about. Slight changes in a vagina's scent are normal throughout your cycle or after you had sex.

You shouldn't try to mask the smell with douching or vaginal deodorants or harsh soaps – that can cause irritation and possibly lead to infection.

A drastic change in odour can be a sign of something abnormal though. For example, fishy smells can be a sign of infection such as bacterial vaginosis. If you notice other changes alongside the smell, such as itching or burning, you should get in touch with a healthcare professional.

Are you worried about your discharge? Or have you got any other questions? Join our discussion forum to have your questions answered or connect to us via Facebook

Did you learn something new?


Hi Bella, vaginal discharge happens all through your cycle. However, the discharge changes in color and texture all through your cycle. On the other hand, safe days are one of the most unreliable ways to prevent pregnancy, and we really don't recommend it at all.   When your safe days are really depends on the length of your cycle. Technically speaking, the first seven days before and after your period, as well as the time of your period, are relatively safe. But, if you have a shorter cycle (shorter than 28 days), or an irregular one, this will vary. Also keep in mind that sperm can survive for up to five days and longer inside the body- so even if you have sex on a 'safe' day, you can still get pregnant, because the sperm survived until your ovulation date. So you see, it's a very inaccurate. And lastly, of course this won't protect you from STDs. Only condoms will. So we really recommend a more reliable method. Have a look at the following article for more information;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/are-safe-days-safe

Hi Luv, pain during and/or sex can be caused by a number of reason including having dry sex where penetration happens before the vagina is well lubricated. It can be caused by the presence of an infection, the position during sex or the size of the penis. The first step toward addressing the pain is getting to know what is causing it. Have a look at this article for additional information;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/making-love/sex-problems-how-to-overcome-them/painful-sex-time-to-listen-up

I have issues on the Discharge it's soo thick with a bad smell and sometimes I feel itchy what might it be,am so worried because sometimes am always uncomfortable

Hello Peris, a discharge that has a bad smell coupled with itchness could be an indication that you have a vaginal infection. It is therefore important that you seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment. 

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