๐Ÿ’– Vaginal Discharge: Causes, Types, Symptoms and Treatment

Vaginal Discharge: Causes, Types, Symptoms and Treatment

Are you experiencing some sort of vaginal discharge? Do you have itching or burning sensation? Then it could be a sign of the underlying diseases or it could be normal. Every woman has faced discharge from the vagina during her life. There are various types of vaginal discharge which indicate different health issues in a woman.

Vaginal Discharge

Every woman experiences some sort of vaginal discharge and the amount of mucus produced and the odor will vary from women to women. Itโ€™s the bodyโ€™s way of keeping the vagina clean. It is also slightly acidic which will help fight of infections. You will get to know your own body very well and it will be easy to tell a change in your discharge that may need to be checked out. A normal vaginal discharge will be clear or white in color and can vary in consistency to very thin and watery during the middle of the cycle to slight thicker and stretchy at the beginning and end of the cycle.

A normal vaginal discharge can change due to sexual excitement, stress and diet. Be sure to eat well, drink plenty of water and keep your personal hygiene in good order. The most important thing I can say about whether or not your discharge is normal or not is how you feel yourself. If you feel your discharge is anything but normal then you need to get yourself checked out by your doctor.

What does the discharge from your vagina indicate about your health? To know this, go through this article!

1. Vaginal Discharge Meaning:

Vaginal discharge is a discharge coming out from the vagina due to inflammation, infection, or physiological change in the female reproductive organ. In more common words, it is โ€œthe discharge coming from the vagina.โ€

Discharge can be a normal phenomenon, or it can be an indication of various other problems. On the basis of the color, smell, amount, we can distinguish these discharges.

By definition vaginal discharge is any substance secreted by the vagina. The discharge can vary in consistency, color and smell and it is formed by normal bacteria and cells from the vagina. Discharge from the vagina is normal, especially during childbearing years, and the consistency will vary during the regular menstrual cycle. A normal vaginal discharge will be white or transparent in color, thick to thin in consistency and odorless.

During ovulation, there is a lot of discharge produced and it is typically clear in color and stretchy in consistency. A thick, white vaginal discharge is common at the beginning and end of the menstrual cycle. Besides ovulation, sexual excitement and emotional stress can increase the amount of normal vagina discharge.

Bacteria in the vagina are controlled by several factors including acid (pH) level and hormones. Upsetting the normal balance vaginal discharge during pregnancy can increase risk of infection or overgrowth of the bacteria. Things that can trigger an imbalance of normal vaginal bacteria levels include use of antibiotics, use of birth control pills, douching, diabetes, pregnency, stress, and tight or synthetic undergarments. To help treat vaginal discharge that may be a problem it is recommended to keep the genital area clean and dry, avoid douching, eat yogurt with live cultures, and try to reduce stress levels.

A change in the color, amount, or smell of vaginal discharge may be a sign of an infection. Conditions that may arise as a result of a vaginal infection include vaginal yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, trichomonas, forgotten tampon, cervical or vaginal cancer, and sexually transmitted deseases.

Call your doctor if your experience vaginal discharge that is associated with fever or pain in the pelvis or abdomen, you have unexplained thirst or appetite, wieght loss, increased urinary frequency, you think the discharge may be related to medication, you are concerned you have a sexually transmitted disease, you have blisters of other lesions on your vagina, or you have a burning sensation when urinating.

1.1. Normal Vaginal Discharge:

Do you know some sort of discharge is normal amazed? Letโ€™s talk about it in detail.

Normal vaginal discharge is made of liquid, dead vaginal cells, mucus, and Bartholin Gland secretions. It is odorless and scanty in amount. This does not cause any symptoms like itching, staining on clothes, etc. The amount of discharge can vary depending on the timing of the menstruation cycle, as the discharge will increase just before and after the period.

So, in short, normal vaginal discharge is nothing but a process to clean the vagina. You donโ€™t need to worry about this type of discharge.

Vaginal discharge that suddenly changes in color, consistency, odor or amount may be a sign of problem. Vaginal yeast infections will produce a cottage cheese like discharge that is white in color. Trichomonas, caused by the Trichomonas vaginalis organism, will produce a watery, yellowish or greenish bubbly discharge.

Bacterial vaginosis, caused by the Gardnerella vaginalis bacteria, will produce a white, gray or yellowish thin vaginal discharge. Any of the infections can be treated with antibiotics and usually respond within days of the treatment. If the vaginal discharge is caused by a sexually transmitted disease, your sexual partner should be treated as well.

1.2. Types Of Vaginal Discharge:

The discharge could be of numerous types, according to causative factors. For better understanding, we can divide them into two main types.

These are those types of vaginal discharge on which you need to pay attention as they can be an indication of the disease.

a. Vaginal Discharge Color:

The color of discharge indicates the verity of the pathogen in the vagina. Normal vaginal discharge may be clear, cloudy white, and/or yellowish when dry on clothing. The menstrual cycle affects vaginal discharge. During ovulation, the normal vaginal discharge is clear and may become stretchy or slippery. There may be an increase in the vaginal discharge which may be clear in color around mid-cycle. A white, thick vaginal discharge is common at the end of the menstrual cycle.

infographic Color of Vaginal Discharge

1) Curdy, Cream And Milky White Discharge:

A white vaginal discharge will more often than not be perfectly normal especially at the beginning and end of the menstrual cycle. Care must be taken as if the white discharge becomes thicker and cottage cheese like then this could signify a yeast infection will which need treatment.

This type of discharge is mostly odorless, and consistency varies according to the underlying disease. If you have a watery discharge with itching, then it could be an indication of vaginal Candidiasis. But if the white discharge is thick in consistency (curdy, cheesy, or milky white), then it could be a sign of vaginal Thrush.

2) Clearย  Discharge:

Will be quite normal especially for women of menstrual age. In fact this type of discharge signifies fertility. It will have the consistency of egg white and looks quite like it. The normal clear vaginal discharge will have no odor.

3) Yellow Discharge:

If you are experiencing dark or light yellow discharge, then it means there is pus mixed with mucus. The pus is due to some infection in your genitals. The dark or light color depends upon the amount of infection. The darker the color, the higher the infection.

A yellow vaginal discharge can be confusing. A normal vaginal discharge can become yellow when it dries on clothes. This will normally be a pale yellow color. Any bright or deep yellow discharge must be investigated.

4) Green Discharge:

Green discharge is also an important symptom of vaginal infection – both yellow and green discharge commonly found in bacterial vaginosis, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and genital herpes.

5) Bloody Discharge:

Bloody discharge is the sign of bleeding either in the vaginal tract or the upper reproductive system – ovulatory bleeding caused by ovulation from the ovary. Bloody discharge during the first 3 months of pregnancy could be a sign of miscarriage. If there is spotting at the time of the regular period rather than the regular flow, it is recommended that you have a pregnancy test.

6) Red Discharge:

A red color is associated with spotting blood and can occur when ovulating (mid-cycle), or early in pregnancy.

Bright red vaginal discharge not associated with a regular menstrual period may be a sign of cervical or uterine cancer.

7) Pink Discharge:

In pink vaginal discharge, its flow is about 1 teaspoon within a day. Pink vaginal discharge is light pink or pinkish, thick to thin and odorless. Because of normal discharge, vagina keeps clean, smooth and prevent from infection and some other germs. In menstrual cycle of the women, normal discharge is dark, brown or discolored for one day or two day. So, during that period if color of discharge is changed then no need to worry.

8) Brown Discharge:

Brown discharge is due to bleeding in the reproductive tract. Dark brown discharge contains clotted blood with mucus. But brown discharge before the period is a sign for the upcoming period.

A brown vaginal discharge can again be quite normal. Towards the end of the menstrual cycle you may get a brown discharge and all this will be will old blood. As the blood ages it turns from red to brown.

A dark, discolored, or brown discharge, which can happen at the end of the menstrual cycle, is old blood from the period that is being discharged.

9) Gray Discharge:

Gray discharge during pregnancy could be a sign of trichomoniais, bacterial vaginosis or gonorrhea. All are STDโ€™s and should be treated right away to prevent damage to the baby. Visit your doctor for a correct diagnosis and take the treatment immediately. Allowing a vaginal infection or STD to remain in your body can do major damage to your reproductive organs or to your baby.

10) Watery Discharge:

Watery discharge, also called watery vaginal discharge, is very common among most women. It usually starts at puberty and lasts well past the end of menstruation. The quantity of discharge also varies from woman to woman and often increases dramatically during the monthly periods. But for some women, watery discharge doesn’t go away even after their monthly period is over; or if they have several normal periods.

11) Smelly Discharge:

Smelly vaginal discharge can vary in smell from normal, odorless, or foul smelling. A normal vaginal discharge does not smell bad. Along with changes in the amount, consistency, and color of vaginal discharge, a change in vaginal discharge odor can signal an underlying problem. The changes can occur when the normal ph balance of the vagina is upset. Douching, feminine hygiene sprays, certain soaps or bubble baths, antibiotics, diabetes, pregnancy or infections can upset the ph balance and cause a change in vaginal discharge odor.

There are several infections that can cause a change in vaginal discharge odor. A grey/white or yellow/green vaginal discharge color will be accompanied by a vaginal discharge odor. Vaginitis will cause a strong vaginal odor, especially after intercourse. There will also be an increase in the amount of vaginal discharge and a change in the color.

Bacterial vaginosis caused by the Gardnerella vaginalis bacteria, will cause a fishy odor that is stronger after intercourse and after washing with soap. Trichomoniasis, caused by Trichonomas vaginalis, will also produce an unpleasant odor. Other conditions that can cause vaginal odor include cervical cancer, Chlamydia, endometritis, and pelvic inflammatory disease.

Any change in vaginal discharge odor should be reported to your physician. Infections can be treated with antibiotics and respond in a matter of days. To prevent vaginal infections that lead to vaginal discharge odor it is recommended to use condoms during sex, keep vaginal area clean and dry, wear cotton underwear, avoid using deodorant pads or tampons, do not douche, and avoid perfumed soaps and body washes.

If you feel a foul smell in your discharge, then it is an indication of infection in the vagina or cervix.

b. Physiological DischargePuberty Discharge:

In this scenario, there is a sudden rise of estrogen level in blood which increases blood flow to the vagina. It causes a small amount of discharge with discomfort. It usually does not require any urgent medical attention.

1) Menopausal Discharge:

Menopause occurs between the age of 50-55 years. In this period, the level of female hormones fluctuates from peak to absence level. This produces lots of menopausal symptoms with discharge. This will end with time.

2) Discharge During Pregnancy:

During Pregnancy, the Estrogen level in blood increases. Thus, the blood supply in the vagina also increases, which causes thick curdy discharge or clear watery discharge. It is expected, but it is advisable to consult a physician because leakage of amniotic or water breaking is also possible during Pregnancy.

One of the questions I get asked a lot is from pregnan ladies and its this. What is going on with my vaginal discharge during pregnancy? And the answer does somewhat vary but as pregnant women will know it is quite normal for vaginal discharge during pregnancy to increase.

This increased pregnancy vaginal discharge is quite normal and will normally take the form of a odorless or may be mildly smelling clear or slightly white discharge pretty much the same as you had before you were pregnant. The reason for the increase is two fold.

  1. Estrogen levels are increased during pregnancy and this will lead to increased discharge.
  2. There is a much greater blood flow to the vagina during pregnancy and this also has the effect of increasing discharge.

We allknow the reason for normal vaginal discharge and thats to remove unwanted and old cells from the cervix and vagina, as well as bacteria.

Vaginal discharge during pregnancy will increase as the pregnancy progresses. At the start of pregnancy a protective barrier is formed in the cervical canel. It is known as the mucus plug. So as the pregnancy developes and labour nears the cervix opens up (dilates) and some of this mucus will be discharged. This vaginal discharge will look like egg white, it might even be discharge in large lumps and there also may be a slight bit of blood.

This mucus discharge is seen at the end of the pregnancy and if you are experiencing it any earlier than 37 weeks you may want to speak to your midwife. If you are getting mucus early or a pink,red,brown this could signify preterm labour so always best to get checked out.

When you are pregnant you are still susceptible to other infections and infact they become more important to diagnose early and treat than if you are not pregant. So if you have a white cottage cheese like vaginal discharge during pregnancy then you may have a yeast infection especially if you have an associated burning feeling or irritation. A yeast infection is not to be confused with bacterial vaginosis. BVโ€™s discharge will be more gray in color and have a fishy smell.

A Green vaginal discharge during pregnancy or at anytime infact could mean a sexually transmitted disease called Trichomoniasis. This will also have a strong odor. This will need treatment as soon as possible.

So if your pregnant what can you do about your vaginal discharge? Well first of all keep clean and have a good hygiene routine. When pregnant you are not to use tampons to soak discharge so stick to pads to absorb.

If in any dout at all about vaginal discharge during pregnancy speak to your healthcare worker or midwife.

3) Discharge Vagina And Periods (Menstrual Cycle):

All women will experience some amount of vaginal discharge starting a year or two before puberty and ending after menopause. The amount of discharge is influenced by hormonal changes in a womanโ€™s body related to her menstrual cycle and will effect the vaginal environment.

Beside the menstrual cycle, changes in vaginal discharge will be affected by pregnancy, use of medications, sexual arousal, and stress levels. The ph (acidic) level of the vagina changes during the menstrual cycle and is the least acidic just before and during menstruation which makes the vagina more susceptible to infections.

To prevent vaginal infections it is recommended to not use scented tampons or pads during menstruation. A forgotten tampon in the vagina can cause an infection. A condition called Atrophic vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina) can occur due to hormonal changes associated with pregnancy or menopause. Atrophic vaginitis responds well to hormone replacement therapy.

The color, thickness of the vaginal discharge will vary according to the menstrual cycle and fluctuates according to estrogen levels in the body. The normal clear or white vaginal discharge may become thicker and more elastic during ovulation which occurs about two weeks after your menstrual period. Before ovulation, there is an increase in the amount of vaginal discharge, up to 30 times more than after ovulation. Mid-cycle there is an increase in vaginal discharge and the discharge is clear in color.

To help control problematic vaginal discharge that might occur during the menstrual cycle, it is recommended to keep the genital area clean and dry, avoid douching, and eat yogurt with live cultures.

  • Discharge before periods:

Shading of the uterine wall, heaviness in the abdomen, spasmodic pain, all these pre-menstruation symptoms irritate the vagina and produce watery discharge.

  • Discharge after periods:

The increased amount of estrogen is responsible for discharge after periods.

3. How To Diagnose:

Now we know that some sort of discharge is common in every female. But if you are facing the following symptoms along with the discharge, then you need to seek medical attention as it could be a sign of disease.

  • Itching in vagina and vulva
  • Burning sensation in the vagina
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain after sex
  • Heaviness in abdomen
  • Pain in the Lower abdomen
  • Backache
  • The unusual appearance of the discharge

4. Vaginal Mucous:

The cervical glands produce a clear, mucus secretion that combines with bacteria, discarded cells and other secretions that forms the vaginal mucous. The normal vaginal mucous helps to clean the vagina, keep it lubricated and infection free. It is usually clear, creamy or slightly yellow, vary in consistency (thick, pasty, thin) and smell. The ph balance of the normal vagina is acidic which helps to prevent infections from occurring. Since the ph balance is the least acidic just prior to and during menstruation, infections are more common at this time.

The menstrual cycle and estrogen levels will affect the vaginal mucous environment and amount. There may be an increased wetness and the vaginal mucous will be more clear in color around mid-cycle. The vaginal mucous is thicker and more white in color at the beginning and end of the menstrual cycle. The vaginal mucous is also thicker when breastfeeding or sexually excited.

As for the amount of vaginal mucous produced, before ovulation there is up to 30 times more mucous produced than after ovulation. It is also more watery and elastic in consistency. Normal vaginal mucous consists of about a teaspoon a day and is white, transparent, thick to thin and odorless.

Changes in the color, consistency, amount or odor of the vaginal mucous should be reported to your doctor as they may be signs of infection. To help keep the vaginal mucous at itโ€™s normal pH level it is recommended to keep the genital area clean and dry, avoid douching, reduce stress, eat yogurt with live cultures, use condoms, and avoid tight undergarments.

5. Vaginal Discharge Causes:

Vaginal discharge is entirely natural, and in most cases itโ€™s a sign of healthy body. Normal vaginal discharge is usually clear or milky white and doesnโ€™t have a noticeable odor, but itโ€™s when these normalities change that you are likely to need to arrange a trip to your doctor.

The glands inside your vagina and cervix make small amounts of fluid every day, and this fluid flows out of the vagina, carrying with it old cells that have lined the vagina. This process cleans your body, keeping your vagina balanced and healthy.

Slight changes in vaginal discharge are also entirely normal, with it likely to fluctuate in thickness and quantity every month. For example, discharge is usually thicker and more like an egg-white consistency when you ovulate, breastfeed or get sexually aroused.

One thing that isnโ€™t normal, however, is a sudden change in smell or color. For example, a sign of a yeast infection is for your vaginal discharge to start to smell bad, increase in quantity and become like a white โ€˜cottage cheeseโ€™ consistency. Usually this particular symptom is also accompanied by itchiness and a red or inflamed vulva.

The sudden change in your vaginaโ€™s health occurs if the healthy balance of bacteria is disturbed. This disruption can be caused by a number of factors, from sexually transmitted infections to feminine hygiene, like scented sprays, soaps, bubble baths and douching, as well as antibiotics, pregnancy or diabetes.

Bacterial vaginosis usually presents symptoms such as a white, gray or yellow vaginal discharge that smells bad. The cause is unknown, but using soaps, sprays, bubble baths and antibiotics are the main noticeable contributory factors, much as it is with a Yeast Infection (commonly known as Thrush).

A bubbly, watery, yellow vaginal discharge or green vaginal discharge is usually associated with Trichomoniasis โ€“ an infection usually caught during unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person. Symptoms can take a while to develop, but it is easily treated with antibiotics.

Brown vaginal discharge is usually a form of blood discharge, and can be relatively common amongst women, especially if it follows a period. It can also be a sign of ovulation, or can follow sexual intercourse or childbirth.

However, brown vaginal discharge can also be symptomatic of cervical erosion, infection (such as pelvic inflammatory disease, genital warts, gonorrhea and chlamydia), and even cervical cancer. For all of these more serious causes itโ€™s likely the brown or bloody vaginal discharge will be prolonged, and if this is the case then you need to get yourself down to your doctor asap.

Lastly, clear vaginal discharge is usually normal, but if it is suddenly very watery then it could be a sign that youโ€™re pregnant. Cervical and vaginal discharge can change a lot when you fall pregnant, and vaginal discharge can change so much as a woman on a daily basis that itโ€™s sometimes hard to keep up! Remember that smell is also a tell-tale sign, and that if you suspect something is wrong or ‘different’ then itโ€™s a good idea to get yourself checked out, even if itโ€™s just to put your mind at ease.

Besides, vaginal discharge, there are some other causes as below:

  • Discharge from the vagina is the bodyโ€™s self-defiance mechanism to flush out infection and dead vaginal and cervix cells from the vagina.
  • An increase in the level of estrogen and progesterone may also produce the discharge.
  • An increase in the level of adrenaline produces the discharge.
  • Infection of bacteria, fungus, and yeast produces discharge from the vagina like bacterial vaginosis, candidiasis, etc.
  • An increase in blood supply to the vagina and vaginal gland causes the discharge.
  • Sexual stimulation causes the discharge.

6. Complications Of Vaginal Discharge:

  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Uterine fibroid
  • Uterine Polyp
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Gonorrhea
  • Cervical cancer
  • Ovarian cyst
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Infertility
  • Thrush

7. Vaginal Discharge Treatments:

Some amount of vaginal discharge is normal and no measures are necessary to treat it. If it becomes too heavy and uncomfortable, pads may be worn for extra absorption. Ovulation, sexual excitement and emotional stress can cause an increase in the normal amount of vaginal discharge.

If there is an increase in the normal amount of vaginal discharge, it is recommended to keep the genital area clean and dry, avoid douching, try to reduce stress levels, eat yogurt with live cultures, use condoms, wear cotton underwear, and avoid tight undergarments.

If vaginal discharge changes in color, amount or odor there may be an underlying problem such as an infection which will require medical attention. You doctor will want to know when the abnormal discharge began, what it looks like, if you have pain, itching or burning, if you have more than one sexual partner, is there an odor, what medications are you taking, do you have an allergies, do you wear tight clothing, and if you have ever had an abnormal Pap smear. Diagnostic tests that may be conducted include cultures of your cervix, a Pap smear and examination of the vaginal discharge under a microscope.

Treatment will depend on the results of the diagnostic tests administered.

If the vaginal discharge is due to an infection, antibiotics will be prescribed. Metronidazole is prescribed for bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis. Vaginal creams may also be prescribed. For recurrent yeast infections, over the counter antifungal creams may be used. If symptoms do not improve, a prescription medication may be necessary. In some cases if the vaginal discharge is due to an infection, you sexual partner may also need to be treated.

8. Yeast infection:

There is a normal amount of the yeast, Candida albicans, present in the vagina. It is the same bacteria that causes diaperYeast Infection rash. The normal levels of vaginal yeast are related to the pH level in the vagina. When the normal pH level of the vagina is altered, an overabundance of yeast is produced and an infection will result.

Factors that may increase susceptibility to yeast infections include increased stress levels, diabetes, pregnancy, use of birth control pills, and use of antibiotics. Antibiotics destroy good bacteria which then allow for an overgrowth of yeast.

When an overabundance of yeast is produced, there will be an increase in the amount of vaginal discharge, redness, itching, burning in the vaginal/vulvar area, a white, cottage cheese like discharge, and painful intercourse. However, yeast infections are usually not sexually transmitted and are not related to sexual activity, but the sexual partner may need to be treated should a yeast infection occur.

Yeast infections are usually treated with an antifungal, vaginally inserted medication in the form of a tablet or cream which are available without a prescription. If the yeast infection does not respond to over the counter treatment, prescribed medication may be necessary.

For prevention and treatment of yeast and other infections it is recommended to keep the vaginal area clean and dry, wear cotton underwear, wear loose underwear, do not douche, avoid using deodorant tampons or pads, do not scratch infected or inflamed areas, all of which can upset the normal ph balance of the vagina.

9. Disclaimer:

Above article is only for knowledge purpose. Please contact your healthcare provider before using any of above medicine or method. For any query or personal consultation according to your health condition, please contact your doctor.

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