Vaginal discharge is a vital cleaning function in the female reproductive system. Fluid made by glands inside the vagina and cervix flushes out dead cells and bacteria. This helps maintain a clean vagina and helps keep off infection. But when is vaginal discharge abnormal?
Vaginal discharge is perfectly normal most of the time. The amount can differ, so does the odour and colour. This range from clear to a milky white-ish, depending on the time in the monthly period cycle. For instance, there is more discharge during ovulation, breastfeeding, or when you are sexually aroused. The smell may change if you are pregnant or you haven’t been meticulous about your personal hygiene.
These changes should not be a reason to worry excessively. Nonetheless, you could be in for an infection or other condition. Firstly, if the colour, smell or consistency looks really abnormal, in particular. Secondly, if accompanied by vaginal itching or burning sensation.
Triggers That Can Distress Vagina Balance
When is vaginal discharge abnormal? is a good question in view of the concern women feel about any strange changes “down” there. Any change in the vagina’s balance of normal bacteria can affect the smell, color, or discharge texture and consistency. These are a few of the triggers that can distress the balance:
- Antibiotic or steroid use
- Bacterial vaginosis, a bacterial infection more common in pregnant women or women who have multiple sexual partners
- Birth control pills
- Cervical Cancer
- Chlamydia or gonorrhea, sexually transmitted infections
- Douches, scented soaps or lotions, bubble bath
- Pelvic infection after surgery
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Trichomoniasis, a parasitic infection typically contracted and caused by having unprotected sex
- Vaginal atrophy, the thinning and drying out of the vaginal walls during menopause
- Vaginitis, irritation in or around the vagina
- Yeast infections
Types of Abnormal Discharge & Possible Causes
The chart below explains more about what a particular type of discharge might mean.
|Type of Discharge||What It Might Mean||Other Symptoms|
|Bloody or brown||Irregular menstrual cycles, or less often, cervical or endometrial cancer||Abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain.|
|Cloudy or yellow||Gonorrhea||Bleeding between periods, urinary incontinence, pelvic pain|
|Frothy, yellow or greenish with a bad smell||Trichomoniasis||Pain and itching while urinating|
|Pink||Shedding of the uterine lining after childbirth (lochia)|
|Thick, white, cheesy||Yeast infection||Swelling and pain around the vulva, itching, painful sexual intercourse|
|White, gray, or yellow with a fishy odor||Bacterial vaginosis||Itching or burning, redness, and swelling of the vagina or vulva|
How Does The Doctor Diagnose Abnormal Discharge?
The doctor starts the diagnosis by taking a health history and asking questions about your symptoms. These questions may include:
- When did the abnormal discharge begin?
- What color is the discharge?
- Is there any smell?
- Do you have any itching, pain, or burning in or around the vagina?
- Do you have more than one sexual partner?
- Do you douche?
The doctor may proceed to take a sample of the discharge. Alternatively, the doctor may do a Pap test to collect cells from your cervix for further examination.
How Is Abnormal Discharge Treated?
How you are treated will depend on what’s causing the problem. For example, yeast infection is usually treated with antifungal medications inserted into the vagina in cream or gel form. Bacterial vaginosis is treated with antibiotic pills or creams. Trichomoniasis is usually treated with the drug metronidazole (Flagyl) or tinidazole (Tindamax).
Preventing vaginal infections recurrence is key. These tips will help lock out vaginal infections that may to abnormal discharge:
- Keep the vagina clean. Wash regularly with a gentle, mild unperfumed soap and warm water.
- Avoid scented soaps and feminine products or douche. Also, keep away from using feminine sprays and bubble baths.
- After using the bathroom, always wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria from getting into the vagina and causing an infection.
- Wear 100% cotton underpants, and avoid overly tight clothing.
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