What is normal vaginal discharge?Normal vaginal discharge tends to be thin and watery or thick and sticky in consistency, and is usually clear or white in color. Normal discharge tends not to have an odor or cause vaginal itching or pain. There may be more discharge if you are ovulating, breastfeeding, or sexually aroused. The smell may be different if you are pregnant.
What is abnormal vaginal discharge?Any change in the balance of normal bacteria in the vagina can affect the smell, colour, or texture of the discharge. A few of the things that can upset that balance include:
- Antibiotic or steroid use
- Bacterial vaginosis, which is a bacterial infection that is not sexually transmitted, but more common in women who have multiple sexual partners
- Birth control pills
- Cervical Cancer
- Chlamydia or gonorrhea, which are sexually transmitted infections
- Scented soaps or lotions, bubble bath
- Pelvic infection after surgery
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Trichomoniasis, which is a parasitic infection typically caused by having unprotected sex
- Vaginal atrophy, which is thinning and drying out of the vaginal walls during and after menopause
- Vaginitis, which is irritation in or around the vagina
- Yeast infections
When should you check with a doctor?
- Greenish, yellowish, thick or cheesy vaginal discharge
- Strong vaginal odor
- Redness, itching, burning or irritation of your vagina or the area of skin that surrounds the vagina and urethra (vulva)
- Bleeding or spotting unrelated to your period
What are some of the questions your doctor will ask?
- When did the abnormal discharge begin?
- What colour 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?
What are some of the tests that may be done?The doctor may take swabs from the vagina, cervix and urethra for testing. Blood tests for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections may also be done.
How can abnormal vaginal discharge be treated?Seek medical advice if you notice any unusual discharge. How you are treated will depend on the condition that's causing the problem. For example, yeast infections are usually treated with antifungal cream, vaginal tablet (pessary) or a tablet taken by mouth. Bacterial vaginosis is treated with antibiotic pills or creams. Trichomoniasis is usually treated with the antibiotic metronidazole.
How can you prevent the development of an abnormal vaginal discharge?
- Keep the vagina clean by washing regularly with a gentle soap and warm water.
- Never use scented soaps or douches. Also avoid feminine sprays and bubble baths.
- After going to the toilet, always wipe from font to back to prevent bacteria from getting into the vagina and causing infection.
- Wear 100% cotton underwear and avoid overly tight clothing.
- Practice safe sexual practices including the use of a condom and having one faithful partner.
If you think you may have an abnormal vaginal discharge, book your appointment with The Obstetrics and Gynaecology Centre today to see a gynaecologist!