Vaginal discharge is most of the time considered normal. The amount, odour, colour and consistency can vary depending on the time in your menstrual cycle. For example, there will be a lot of discharge when you are ovulating, breastfeeding, or sexually aroused. None of these changes needed to be address.
However, if the color, smell, or consistency seems quite different than usual, with vaginal itching or burning, you could be dealing with an infection or other condition.
Therefore, it is important to take note of how the discharge changes throughout the time in your cycle so that you know what is abnormal for you.
What does normal vaginal discharge look like?
There are three important characteristics that you can look out for when assessing vaginal discharge– the colour and consistency of the discharge, the quantity and odour.
Colour and consistency
A normal vaginal discharge is usually clear and watery. During ovulation, the discharge becomes stretchy just like the consistency of a raw egg white. This is normal and you have nothing to worry about.
Sometimes, you might notice streaks of blood or brown discharge which is normal if it happens during or after your period.
The amount of discharge changes throughout the cycle. The discharge volume will increase as you get closer to your ovulation. A day or two after ovulation, the volume of the discharge drops and become dry at the end of your cycle. The amount of discharge also increases when you are aroused.
Normal vaginal discharge is usually odourless or might have a mild odour but not unpleasant. The mild smell could be due to a mix of the vaginal discharge with either urine or blood from your period.
What does abnormal vaginal discharge look like?
Colour and consistency
An abnormal vaginal discharge colour could be a sign of possible infection or even cancer. The colour of the discharge can be a clue to the possible cause.
- Blood / Brown – Blood in the discharge could be a sign of irregular menses, or cervical cancer or endometrial cancer. The other accompanied symptoms include pelvic pain and discomfort during intercourse.
- Yellow – this could be a sign of gonorrhea infection. It is usually accompanied by symptoms of pelvic pain, urinary incontinence and bleeding.
- Yellow or greenish – this could be a sign of trichomoniasis infection. Accompanying symptoms include pain and itching while urinating. The discharge is usually foul smelling.
- Thick, white and cheesy – this could be a sign of yeast infection (candidiasis). Accompanying symptoms include itching and burning sensation, swelling, redness and pain around the vulva and pain during intercourse.
Unpleasant or unusual smells accompanying the discharge is not normal and is usually a sign of an underlying problem. Strong fishy odour associated with thin, greyish-white discharge is usually a sign of bacterial vaginosis. If you have yellow discharge with an offensive odour, this could mean you might be suffering from trichomoniasis.
Sometimes intercourse can change the odour of your vaginal discharge, but this is temporary.
Here are some of the risks factor that could be causing you to get abnormal discharge;
- Antibiotic or steroid use as people who are chronic antibiotic user tend to have antibiotics resistance and it is easy to get bacterial infection. Long term use of steroids can cause immunodeficiency which means you are prone to get infections easily.
- Bacterial vaginosis, is common in woman who had frequent douche or women who have multiple sexual partners.
- Cervical cancer
- Having multiple sexual partners or a partner who have multiple sexual partners is predisposed to sexually-transmitted diseases like trichomonas, gonorrhea, clamydia.
- Diabetes may cause you to have yeast infection (candidiasis).
If you ever noticed any changes to your vaginal discharge, it is best to consult with your doctor so that she can diagnose any issue and treat them right away.
The treatment depends on the cause but the principle would be treating the microorganism involved. For example, if you have yeast infection or fungal infection, you will be treated with anti-fungal medication. For sexually transmitted infections, the partner will be treated even if they have no symptoms.
Lastly, here are some tips to keep your private area clean and prevent infection.
- Keep the vagina clean by washing with running water. Vagina is self cleaning organ , it has slightly acidic PH to protect itself from infections.
- Do not use scented soaps and feminine products or douche as it will destroy the normal pH and you are making it more vulnerable to infection
- After going to the bathroom, always wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria from getting into the vagina and causing an infection.
- Wear 100% cotton and breathable panties, and avoid overly tight clothing.