Is my vaginal discharge normal?
Vaginal discharge is a fluid or mucus from the vagina and is a natural occurrence critical for female reproductive health. Under the influence of female hormones, estrogen, skin cells in the vagina and cervix produce vagina discharge.
Is my vaginal discharge normal?
There are many different types of vaginal discharge. The varying types are a common concern among women. Women who are menopausal have minimal vaginal discharge due to lower levels of estrogen. Some amount of vaginal discharge is normal unless it occurs with itching, burning, or other bothersome symptoms. Varying causes can have similar symptoms. Visit a doctor or a gynae and have a medical examination to determine the cause.
In premenopausal women, it is normal to have approximately one-half to one teaspoon (two to five millilitres) of white or clear, thick, mucus-like, and mostly odourless vaginal discharge every day. However, the amount and consistency of the vaginal discharge vary from one woman to another. The amount can also vary at different times during the menstrual cycle. It may become more noticeable at certain times, such as during pregnancy, with the use of birth control pills, patch, vaginal ring, near ovulation, and in the week before the menstrual period.
Vaginal discharge contains vaginal skin cells, bacteria, and mucus and fluid produced by the vagina and cervix. A normal vagina discharge often has a slight odour and may cause mild irritation of the vulva. This discharge helps to protect the vaginal and urinary tract against infections. It also provides lubrication to the vaginal tissues.
Warning signs and symptoms
Vaginal discharge is common and normal. However, vaginal discharge with the following signs and symptoms is not normal and should be evaluated by a doctor or gynae.
- Itching of the vulva, vaginal opening, or labia
- Redness, burning, soreness, or swelling of the vulvar skin
- Foamy or greenish-yellow discharge
- Bad odour
- Blood-tinged vaginal discharge
- Pain with intercourse or urination
- Abdominal or pelvic pain
Causes of abnormal vaginal discharge
Abnormal vaginal discharge can occur when there are changes in the balance of bacteria in the vagina. Such changes can affect the smell, colour, and discharge texture.
The common causes of vaginal discharge include:
- Yeast infections
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Sexually transmitted infection (STI) – Trichomoniasis, Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea
- Foreign substances (eg. a forgotten tampon, condom)
- Use of spermicides
- Soap irritation
- Hormonal changes
- Sexual activity
When to see a healthcare provider
It is hard to tell if your vaginal discharge is normal without an examination. A physical examination and vaginal swab test are the most accurate ways of determining the cause of the abnormal vaginal discharge. Do not treat yourself before being examined because it can make it more challenging to make an accurate diagnosis.
During the examination, the doctor will examine the entire outer genital area and will perform an internal assessment. The doctor will also take a sample of the discharge to test for infection. Pap smears are occasionally done in the same setting if the test has not been done recently.
Abnormal vaginal discharge treatment
Many women would prefer to avoid seeking medical help. However, self-treatment can delay getting the correct diagnosis, be costly, or even cause worsened symptoms. Your doctor will conduct a physical checkup before any treatment is executed.
In some cases, it is possible to make a diagnosis and begin treatment immediately, based upon the examination. In other cases, the doctor may recommend delaying treatment until test results are available.
If a doctor recommends treatment for your vaginal symptoms, make sure you understand what your test results showed and what type of infection you have. Sexual partners of women with a sexually transmitted infection, such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, or trichomoniasis, need evaluation and treatment. for other infections, such as yeast or bacterial vaginosis, the sexual partner
does not need treatment.
If treatment is needed, you should avoid having intercourse until the treatment is completed.
Tips for good personal hygiene
Here are some things you can do to reduce your chances of an abnormal vaginal discharge.
- Use warm water, an unscented non-soap cleanser and your hands to clean genitalia
- Avoid the use of feminine hygiene products (If odour or discharge is bothersome, seek medical help)
- Avoid hot bubble baths with scented bath products
- Use plain warm water as much as possible
- Wear cotton underwear
- Avoid wearing tight or restrictive synthetic clothing (eg. thongs, synthetic underwear)
- Use pads instead of tampons when you are on your period
- Use condoms and lubrication when having sex
- Rinse your genitals with water
- Pat dry after visiting the toilet
- Avoid the use of baby wipes or scented toilet paper
- Do not clean the inside of the vagina
- Do not panty liners every day
- Take a bubble bath or use other scented bath products