Types of vaginal discharge – What is normal, what is not Play Button

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Types of vaginal discharge – What is normal, what is not

Maitri Woman

Team Maitri

Feb 08, 2022

Have you ever wondered what produces a normal Vaginal discharge? Or when should you be concerned & seek professional help about abnormal vaginal discharge? 

If yes, then let us find out what are the different types of vaginal discharge and what can your vaginal discharge tell you. 

A normal vaginal discharge is composed of the fluid secreted by small glands in the vagina and cervix along with the dead cells that slough off from the cervical & vaginal surface.

Vaginal discharge is the by-product of the cleaning mechanism of the reproductive tract & escapes from the vaginal canal every day to

  • Keep the vagina healthy and clean.
  • Lubricate the vaginal area.
  • Help prevent infection & irritation.

 Moreover, the amount of vaginal discharge varies from one woman to another and from one part of the menstrual cycle to the other. 

Thus, for the majority of the time, vaginal discharge is a normal event. 

Certain types of discharge, on the other hand, can suggest infection and you should take proper treatment if you experience abnormal vaginal discharge.

Abnormal discharge can be yellow or green in colour, chunky in texture, or smell bad. Abnormal discharge is frequently caused by STD’s,  yeast, or bacterial infections but sometimes it may be a sign of a hormonal disturbance or even a pre-cancerous condition. 

Hence, if you observe any odd discharge or a foul odour, visit your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.

There can be different types of vaginal discharge

The colour and consistency can guide you about the type of vaginal discharge. 

1. Watery and clear
It's normal to have a clear or whitish, watery discharge. It can happen at any point during the month but usually is more around the time of ovulation i.e during the middle of your menstrual cycle.

2. White
It's common to have some white discharge, especially at the start or conclusion of your menstrual period. However, if the discharge is itchy and thick or curdy white, it may be an indication of yeast infection & needs to be treated. 

3. Brown or reddish-brown
Brown or bloodstained discharge is common during or immediately after your menstrual cycle. Some women may notice a slight brownish or reddish discharge just before or after the periods or sometimes at the time of ovulation. 

However, if you have any spotting or bleeding after intercourse or if there is any abnormal or persistent spotting or brownish discharge in any part of your menstrual cycle apart from your periods, it needs to be investigated to exclude the possibility of hormonal disturbances & cancers. 

4. Yellow or green
It's not normal to have a yellow or green color discharge, especially when it is thick and smells bad. This type of discharge could be an indication of trichomoniasis or other infections. 

Causes of abnormal vaginal discharge

An abnormal vaginal discharge can be a result of a variety of conditions ranging from an infection, hormonal imbalance, precancerous or cancerous condition & sometimes a forgotten tampon or pessary inside the vagina. 

1. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
Bacterial vaginosis is the most common cause of the abnormal vaginal discharge. 

It is a bacterial infection caused due to the overgrowth of one among several naturally found bacteria in the vagina. Although it generates no symptoms in some cases, it causes increased vaginal discharge with a strong, foul, and sometimes fishy odour. 

BV is commonly seen in women who are 

  • Pregnant.
  • Having multiple sexual partners.
  • Having an Intrauterine device inserted into the uterus.
  • Not using a barrier like condoms or dental dams during sexual activity.
  • Having a compromised immunity.

2. Trichomoniasis
This type of infection is caused by Trichomonas (a protozoan). 

Sexual contact is the most common way to transfer the infection, although it can also be acquired by sharing towels or swimming suits.

It produces a foul-smelling yellow or green discharge. Symptoms such as pain, inflammation, and itching are also frequent.

3. Yeast infection
Yeast infection is a kind of fungal infection that causes several issues such as  curdy white vaginal discharge, redness in the vulval & vaginal region, itching and burning.

The presence of yeast in the vaginal area is natural, but in some circumstances, its growth can become uncontrolled and lead to excessive vaginal discharge.

It is usually associated with

  • Pregnancy.
  • Prolonged antibiotic therapy.
  • Use of Oral contraceptive pills.
  • A compromised immune system.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes.

4. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
An infection of the pelvic organs including the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix, or vagina is called a PID.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) such as gonorrhea and chlamydia are the common causes for PID & and abnormal discharge.

Generally, it has a green or yellow appearance. It may be accompanied by other symptoms such as pain in the abdomen, fever, itching in the vaginal region, pain during intercourse, etc.

5. Forgotten Vaginal tampons or a ring pessary
A forgotten tampon or sex toy in the vagina can be a cause of abnormal vaginal discharge & also a serious illness –Toxic Shock Syndrome. So do remember to ensure you remove the tampon from the vagina after use and seek medical help in case of any fever, pain, or abnormal discharge.

Occasionally, a long-forgotten vaginal pessary, given for the treatment of prolapse of the uterus & vagina can also cause a vaginal discharge.

6. Cancers of the genital tract
Sometimes, especially in high-risk individuals, an abnormal vaginal discharge can be due to a precancerous or cancerous growth in the cervix or vagina. This needs prompt treatment & treatment should not be delayed in such cases.

Prevention of Abnormal Vaginal discharge 

Abnormal vaginal discharge can be avoided if you follow basic steps for self-care & hygiene

  • Always practice good hygiene and keep the genital area clean & dry.
  • While washing, always wash / clean from front to back, moving from the urinary area towards the vagina & the anal area, never clean from back to front.
  • Always wear cotton undergarments to avoid infections, avoid synthetic underwear.
  • Preferably wear loose-fitting lowers/pants/skirts so as to allow good air circulation and prevent the build-up of moisture & bacteria/fungal organisms in the vagina & vulva.
  • Avoid using artificial washes/ chemicals in the vulval & vaginal area. Simply cleaning the area once a day with mild soap & water is enough to maintain hygiene. You do not need to keep wiping it or cleaning it with chemicals.
  • Always use a condom for protection against STD’s at the time of sexual intercourse.
  • Avoid having multiple sexual partners, especially if you are not sure of their sexual history.
  • Always practice good menstrual hygiene and remember to change your pads/tampons/menstrual cup at least 2-3 times a day during periods.
  • Consume a good, balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables & anti-oxidants to maintain good immunity against infections.
  • Remember to take the medications & antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor. Avoid self-medication & medication.
  • Seek medical help promptly if you notice any foul-smelling or itchy vaginal discharge.
  • Remember to get yourself examined for any genital diseases or precancerous conditions annually.
  • Do not use vaginal douches because they can aggravate discharge by eliminating beneficial microorganisms. To avoid STIs, have safe sex and use protection.

When taking antibiotics, eat yogurt with live and active cultures to reduce the risk of yeast infections.

Finally, remember that vaginal discharge is completely normal if it is not associated with any foul smell, itching, discoluoration, redness, or pain. In case of any abnormality, always seek medical help & meet the doctor for treatment of abnormal vaginal discharge.

Fun Facts

Fun Fact

The normal vaginal discharge prevents vaginal infections!

Some women get rid of vaginal discharge using douching. However, it is not advisable to do so. A Normal vaginal discharge is beneficial, as douching also removes the healthy bacteria that helps in preventing vaginal infections.

For more information on Menstrual Health & Hygiene, please check our other videos.

Maitri Woman

Team Maitri

Feb 08, 2022

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