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?


Hello Efie, thank you for reaching out and asking a great question. Brown vaginal discharge may look alarming, but it isn’t always a reason for concern. You may see this colour throughout your cycle, usually around the time of menstruation. When blood takes extra time to exit the body from the uterus, it oxidises. This can cause it to appear light or dark brown in colour. If you’re experiencing brown discharge, take note of its timing and other symptoms you encounter. Doing so may help you pinpoint the underlying cause.

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 07:30 pm
Pls am new here i have infection i have taken so many drugs but it will stop after a month it will continue it yellowish,itching an redness d last medicine i took was was a natve medicine along side sitting on a buckect of water mixed with dettol day and night but now and still discharging ,i found out is not yellowish but whitish it does not have strong smell like before I want to ask if it normal now

Hello Precious, thank you for reaching out to us. We are so sorry to hear you have had such a hard time. The truth is, some infections are more stubborn than others and can take time to clear. If you are not sure if you are better, please go to a medical practitioner for a comprehensive diagnosis and advice on the way forward.

Fri, 03/06/2020 - 03:30 am
What causes vaginal discharge and I will like to know if you can sex when you experience such like itching, pain and redress

Hi Sophia, thank you for reaching lout to us and we are sorry to hear about what you are going through. What you are describing are signs of an infection. Please refrain from any and all sexual activities and we strongly advise you see a medical professional for a comprehensive diagnosis. 
Here is a list of health institutions that should be of help

Hello Remy, thank you for reaching out to us. Discharge is normal throughout your cycle.However, when there is a change in colour and odour then that would be a sign that something could be wrong and you woould then need to see a medical professional for a comprehensive diagnosis and advice.

Hello Edna, thank you for reaching out to us. Since this is a medical issue we strongly advise you see a medical professional for a comprehensive diagnosis.
Here is a list of health institutions that should be of help

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