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Is your vaginal discharge normal? A gynaecologist answers

Published on:28 April 2021, 17:17pm IST
Vaginal discharge is common but at times, it can also be a symptom of underlying medical conditions.
Dr Asha Hiremath
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Expert advice on when to see a doctor about your vaginal discharge. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

We all know that vaginal discharge is a part of life for women and is absolutely normal. But, what exactly is discharged, and how can you tell what is natural from what may be a sign of a problem? In this post, we’ll go over the importance of vaginal discharge in keeping your body safe, as well as how to spot discharge that may mean it’s time to call the doctor.

What is vaginal discharge and what causes it?

Vaginal discharge is produced by glands in the vagina and cervix. Vaginal secretions are small quantities of fluid produced by these glands. Every day, fluid flows out of the vagina, cleansing the vagina of old cells that have lined it. This is a totally normal mechanism that your body uses to keep your vagina clean and safe. 

Discharge differs from woman to woman. Some women have discharge on a daily basis, while some have it occasionally. Normal vaginal discharge is normally clear or milky, with a faint odour that is neither unpleasant nor foul.

It’s also crucial to understand that vaginal discharge varies during a woman’s menstrual cycle. These changes in colour and thickness are normal and correlated with ovulation. However, certain changes may be abnormal if they’re outside of the natural changes associated with your cycle. 

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Your discharge could suggest an excess of healthy bacteria in your vaginal environment which could indicate that something is wrong. So, how can you tell that your vaginal discharge is a symptom of something more serious?

Here are different types of discharges and their cause:
  • Milky or white with no odour: It is possibly normal discharge and nothing to worry about.
  • Thick, white, and may resemble cottage cheese: It could be a yeast infection followed by itching, burning, soreness, or pain. There are women who experience pain while urinating or while having sex. They may also experience swelling or rash around the vulva.
  • White, yellow, or grey: It could be bacterial vaginosis. It’s symptoms include a fishy odour, itching, and swelling.
  • Yellow or green, thick, or chunky: It could be Trichomoniasis. It could lead to symptoms such as a foul odour. 
  • Brown or bloody: It could be irregular menstruation or a sign of something more serious if it is followed by the symptoms like pelvic pain or vaginal bleeding. Talk to your healthcare professional. It can be something serious.
  • Cloudy, yellow: It could be Gonorrhoea. The symptoms include pelvic pain. Talk to your healthcare professional.
Here’s how you can treat irregular discharge 

The manner in which you should handle the situation will be determined by the nature of the issue. Yeast infections, for example, are normally treated with antifungal creams or gels injected into the vaginal canal. Antibiotic pills or creams are used to treat bacterial vaginosis. Metronidazole (Flagyl) or tinidazole are often used to treat trichomoniasis (Tindamax). 

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Here are some suggestions for avoiding vaginal infections and irregular discharge:

  • On the outside, wash with soft, mild soap and warm water to keep the vagina clean. It is not necessary to apply soap directly to the vaginal area.
  • Do not use scented soaps, feminine hygiene products, or douche. In addition, stay away from feminine sprays and bubble baths.
  • Often clean from front to back when going to the toilet to prevent bacteria from getting into the vaginal canal and causing an infection.

Every woman is different. Hence, every woman must pay attention to their vaginal discharge, especially when one is experiencing symptoms like pain, itching, and irritation. If someone has a vaginal discharge that doesn’t look normal, it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional or a gynaecologist as they will be able to guide better and recommend the needful.

Dr Asha Hiremath Dr Asha Hiremath

Dr Asha Hiremath is a consultant obstetrician & gynaecologist at Motherhood Hospitals, Indiranagar, Bangalore.