Your vagina can seem like it has a mind of its own. In fact, it probably has more sensations than any other organ in your body, every day. The vagina is a very active place between peeing, your period, sex, shaving and just sitting down, so it can be hard to learn what feelings to pay attention to. It doesn’t help that the signs of a healthy vagina and an unhealthy one can be very similar. Just the tiniest detail can indicate a change in your vaginal health. But you’re busy; for the most part, you just wipe down there, slap on some underwear and move on with your day. It’s important to familiarize yourself with what a healthy vagina looks, smells and feels like because it can help you catch infections early, as well as notice more serious conditions. Here are signs of a healthy and unhealthy vagina.
Healthy: Clear discharge
While discharge is sticky and can make you feel a little damp, it’s normal and healthy to find it every time you look into your underwear. That’s your vagina shedding old, dead cells it no longer needs. Just make sure it’s clear or slightly foggy white.
Unhealthy: Yellow discharge
Yellow discharge is never normal and can be a sign of vaginosis. Vaginosis is a blanket term for several infections that could afflict the vagina, but to determine which one you have, you’ll need to see a doctor.
Healthy: Egg white discharge
Your discharge should have the consistency of egg whites or slime. If you rub it between your fingers, it should be difficult to break apart, and it should have a stretchy consistency.
Unhealthy: Cottage cheese discharge
If your discharge becomes dryer, curdled and looks like cottage cheese, this is often the sign of a yeast infection.
Does it feel like your vagina sits in a swamp all day? Well, maybe shower regularly to avoid too much odor, but be grateful. You must be young and fertile! Most women are mildly “wet” all day until perimenopause.
Dryness is not normal. Some medications including the pill and antibiotics can cause vaginal dryness. This isn’t ultimately bad for your health, but it can increase the chance of tears in the vaginal wall during sex, which makes you more vulnerable to bacteria and infection.
Healthy: Varying severity of your period
No period is the same. You may have months where you only bleed for four days and others when you bleed for the full seven days of your period. Sometimes will be lighter and some will be heavier. That’s normal and can fluctuate with your workout routine, stress levels, and diet.
Unhealthy: Irregular or untimely periods
You should not have regular spotting between your normal periods, nor should you have periods show up every two weeks, or not for several months. If this happens, see a doctor because it can be a sign of several things, including delayed symptoms from STDs you never knew you had to cervical cancer.
Healthy: A little sensitivity after sex
It’s normal to experience a little sensitivity after sex, especially if your partner is well-endowed. A slight tingling sensation when you pee immediately after sex is nothing to be concerned about, so long as it goes away within the hour.
Unhealthy: Bleeding after sex
You should never see blood after sex. This can be a symptom of cervical cancer and cause to go to the doctor right away.
Healthy: A mild odor, especially around your period
Your vagina has a natural odor. Don’t try to get rid of it with douching products because you’ll only mess up the pH levels down there. Around your period, the odor will intensify because our vagina is shedding lots of stuff.
Unhealthy: A strong odor
You shouldn’t have a noticeably unpleasant or strong odor. If you’re just sitting on the toilet, you shouldn’t be able to smell your vagina. If you can, this may be a sign of an infection.
Healthy: A firm but flexible vagina
If you haven’t had children, your vagina should bounce back from sex pretty quickly. In other words, you shouldn’t be too loose down there.
Unhealthy: A thin vagina
If your vagina feels as if it has become thinner and tighter, making sex very painful, this could be a sign of vaginal atrophy. Vaginal atrophy is common in women who are breastfeeding or in menopausal women, but you don’t need to live with it. A doctor can help you address it.
Healthy: A little irritation post shaving
If you shave or wax down there, you’re bound to see a few small bumps and experience irritation. That’s not a bad thing—it means your vaginal skin is alive and well! That’s better than stiff, insensitive skin.
What you should not see are blisters that are bleeding. This can be a symptom of an STD or vaginal or vulvar cancer. This type of blister starts small but can grow into more of a mole-sized bump.
Healthy: A little urgency after the pool
Because your vagina is exposed to a lot of things in the pool, including chlorine, it may experience some irritation immediately after a swim. This should go away that same day.
Unhealthy: Peeing every 20 minutes
If, after going in a pool or jacuzzi, you constantly have the urge to pee—even if your bladder is empty—and your vagina burns, you may have contracted a UTI in the pool.
Healthy: Moderate, irregular itching
Your vagina can itch for all kinds of reasons! It could be razor burn, synthetic fabrics, dryness, or a reaction to a new soap. If it’s so infrequent that you can’t remember the last time it itched, you’re probably okay.
Unhealthy: Constant, uncomfortable itching
Your vagina should not itch all day long and for several days on end. This could be a symptom of an STD or a bacterial infection.