Reproductive Health

Discharge & Odor

2 min read

What is discharge?

Discharge is fluid that comes out of the vagina and is a normal part of how the vagina functions. If you’ve ever noticed discoloration on your underwear, this is probably dried discharge. Discharge may vary in thickness, color, or smell. Healthy discharge is typically clear or white and does not smell, and is approximately the amount of a teaspoon per day.

What causes discharge?

Discharge is part of the way that your vagina takes care of cleaning itself. Certain activities or time periods might cause more discharge including sex, exercise, menstruation, pregnancy, or stress. In some cases, an infection like an STI, BV, or a yeast infection can also cause changes to your discharge.

When should I talk to a doctor about my discharge?

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the color, consistency and odor of your normal vaginal discharge. Normal discharge ranges in color from clear to white, and does not have a noticeable smell (though having some degree of vaginal odor is normal).

Discharge can be abnormal if you notice a change in the amount, consistency, odor, or color.  Some examples of changes include an odor that is strong and fishy, or discharge that is thick and clumpy. A change of color in your discharge to yellow, green, or gray can indicate an infection. Lastly, if you experience a significant increase in the amount of discharge you have, this should also be evaluated. If you notice any of these changes, especially alongside other symptoms like swelling, itching, or pain, you should connect with your doctor to properly diagnose the issue.

Is there treatment for discharge?

If the discharge is caused by an infection, the doctor will recommend treatment options for the specific infection and that should help reduce your discharge symptoms and bad odor. Here are a few examples of possible treatment options for different infections:

  • BV: treated with oral medication or vaginal gel (metronidazole)
  • Yeast Infection: treated with fluconazole oral medication or vaginal gel (miconazole)
  • Trichomonas  (STI): treated with oral medication (metronidazole)
  • Gonorrhea/chlamydia (STI): treated with a combination of an oral pill and sometimes an injection of antibiotics

If you do not have an infection, but you’re bothered by the amount of discharge you’re experiencing, you can buy thin liners for your underwear, similar to a pad you wear during your period. You can also try wearing breathable, cotton underwear. You should avoid douching or using scented products to try to clean your vagina because this will likely irritate the vagina even more; the vagina is able to clean itself on its own.

Is it normal for a vagina/vulva to smell?

Just like we all have an odor under our arms, it’s perfectly normal for your vagina/vulva to have a smell. Eating certain foods, exercising, and sex can all affect the smell.

If you realize the smell has become quite strong and “fishy,” or has changed significantly, you can talk to your doctor in case it’s a sign of an infection. This is important if you also experience other symptoms like swelling, itching, pain, or changes in discharge.

What can I do to get rid of the smell?

While this may not be the answer you’re looking for, if you don’t have an infection the best thing you can do is accept that smell is normal and we all have odors from our bodies! It’s important not to use perfume or scented lotions around your vagina, or to try and clean it because that can cause further irritation; remember, the vagina does a great job at cleaning itself.


Looking for more personalized info? Message a doctor through Twentyeight to get medical advice based on your needs and lifestyle.

With the participation of
Dr. Eddie Garcia

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