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Vaginal Discharge: What’s not normal?

Paying attention to the intimate organs of the body must be part of every woman’s self care regimen, and this includes the vagina.

Would you know whether the vagina is healthy or in need of a doctor’s visit?

Well, a big indicator of health down there is the vaginal discharge. It is normal for every woman’s body to produce a white or clear discharge or mucous, which originally comes from the cervix. However, vaginal discharge is often confused with some abnormality.

Your Checklist for Vaginal Discharge: Normal or Alarming

#1 Colour

It is a clear or white, creamy or slightly yellow discharge.

#2 Amount of vaginal discharge

The amount of discharge varies with women, so every woman’s normal could be different. You need to observe over a period of time what’s normal for your body. Vaginal discharge varies depending on the phase of menstrual cycle. Its amount is influenced by the various hormonal changes the body undergoes through a menstrual cycle, generally increasing a week before the period. Pregnant women may experience an unusually larger amount of it. Also, women on contraceptive pills tend to have increased discharge.

#3 Smell

A healthy vaginal discharge does not have a strong smell.

#4 Wetness

It is okay to feel a little wetness due to the discharge.

When to worry

A doctor must be consulted in case of the following:

  • A sudden increase in amount of discharge.
  • Need to change underwear frequently in a day due to wetness, or use panty liners.
  • Change in colour from whitish-yellow to brown, red or green.
  • Smelly discharge.

What Causes Changes in Vaginal Discharge?

The main culprit of abnormal vaginal discharge is a shift in the balance of normal bacteria that inhabit the vagina. This affects the texture, amount, colour and smell of discharge. This balance is disturbed by a variety of causes:

  • Steroid or antibiotics usage
  • Birth control pills
  • Douches, soaps, lotions
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Cervical cancer
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Diabetes
  • Yeast infections
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Vaginal atrophy (thinning and drying out of vaginal walls, during menopause)

Types of Vaginal Discharge Abnormalities

#1 Watery, white discharge with itchiness: A cottage cheese like discharge with slight smell indicates fungal infection or thrush. Vagina may feel sore.

#2 Green, yellow, frothy discharge: A parasite causes a common STI known as trichomoniasis in which the discharge is yellow or green, in large amounts, and is frothy with an unpleasant fishy odour. A course of antibiotics can clear the infection.

#3 Grey or white fish-smelling discharge: A strong fish odour, especially after sex accompanied by a grey-coloured discharge is a sign of bacterial vaginosis (BV). It is common, a result of imbalance in normal vaginal bacterial population, and is not sexually transmitted. It may go away on its own or may require a dose of antibiotics.

#4 Discharge with pain or bleeding: Abnormal discharge accompanied with pain during urination or sex or bleeding could be a chlamydia or gonorrhoea infection (STIs). Left untreated, these can travel upwards can cause PID.

#5 Abnormal discharge with blisters around genitals: This is a sign of genital herpes, which is treated with antivirals that stop the virus from multiplying further.

Tips for a Healthy Vagina Discharge

  • Keep the area clean and dry.
  • Stick to cotton underwear.
  • Do not douche or use scented soaps.
  • Prevent STIs by practising safe sex.

Sexually active? You need to know about this silent virus.


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Sources:

Image courtesy of [imagerymajestic] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Vaginal discharge,” CleavelandClinic.org, http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_vaginal_discharge

“Vaginal discharge,” NetDoctor.co.uk, http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/health_advice/facts/discharge.htm

“Vaginal discharge,” NHS.uk, http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaginal-discharge/Pages/Introduction.aspx

“Vaginal Discharge: What’s Abnormal?” WebMD.com, http://www.webmd.com/women/guide/vaginal-discharge-whats-abnormal

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