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The structure and function of intimate mucous membranes

mucous membrane

The mucosal layer of the vaginal lining is, where you could say, the magic happens for those of us that have vaginas. But why should we care too much about it?

Well the musical layer is where our natural lubrication is at home, and where our vaginal microbiomes love. Let’s do a deep dive.

The mucosal layer can be up to 40 layers thick, depending on hormone layers, and is constantly producing new cells – every 4 days! This cell turn around is so quick because it needs to protect against friction, provide adequate nourishment for the complex ecosystem of the micro- and mycobiome and to attach to bad bacteria and flush them out as they exit.  Mucosal cells are differentiated from the cells of the vulva by the fact they have much less keratin in them, making them less waterproof, and are filled with glycogen which is a sugar store that the lactobacilli feed on. The fact that these cells are less waterproof than the cells of the vulva means that the vaginal mucosa is much more absorbent than other parts of the external body, but also that some fluid from the bloodstream leaks between the vaginal cells and forms part of the vaginal discharge.

The vaginal discharge (aka mucous) is a protective substance that acts as an important barrier between a women’s body and the outside environment. Other components of discharge include secretions from the cervix, which change throughout the month according to hormone changes, secretions from the Bartholin’s and Skene’s glands, cells that have been shed form the vaginal walls, and products made by the vaginal microbiome. The discharge keep the vaginal tissue moist and aids in comfort (see the sections on menopause) and it is usual that most cis women produce anywhere between 1-4 mls of discharge a day. Clear, non foul smelling discharge is healthy and normal, even if produced in what may feel like copious amounts. If your discharge colour deviates from clear from a prolonged time (brown, pink, white, frothy, green/grey) please seek professional medical help.