Vaginal discharge – do I have to worry?

Many women are confused when it comes to vaginal discharge.

However, often this isn’t a topic you would openly discuss with your friends or even your doctor.

You may have questions such as “ Is it normal discharge? Why does my discharge always vary in amount and colour? Should I see a doctor? When should I be worried?”. These are perfectly common and normal questions to ask as vaginal discharge varies from individual and they can be quite confusing.

Usually there is really nothing to worry about unless your vaginal discharge is associated with itching, pain or bad smell. Having vaginal discharge is normal in all women. But of course, it will be helpful to know what normal discharge is or looks like.

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Vaginal Environment

Before proceeding any farther, let us realize that a normal healthy vagina is never free from a type of bacteria known as ‘lactobacillus’. When balanced in amount, it is a ‘friend’ and ‘protector’ of the vagina. Its role is to protect the vagina from infection by releasing certain proteins and maintaining a vaginal pH of 4.5. Once the bacterial count decreases, vaginal pH changes and various infections of the vagina can occur. Green, yellow, gray and white, thick, cottage-cheese like discharge, usually with odor, itching and pain are signs of infection.

normal discharge

Normal and ovulation discharge

Clear, whitish, thin or thick odorless discharge are usually normal and shoudn’t be alarming. It can happen at any time during your menstrual cycle. This discharges means your reproductive organs are ‘cleansing’ the vagina and cervix, getting rid of dead cells and bacteria which is being transported by these discharges.

Somewhere around the 14th day of your cycle (i.e when an egg is released from your ovary -termed ovulation), you may notice clear colourless and elastic discharge resembling egg white. It is usually much more in amount than your usual vaginal discharge. This is a good sign for those who are trying to concieve as this when you are most fertile.

Sometimes, white and more watery discharge can be found after heavy physical activities, when you are sexually excited or sometimes when you feel extremely tired.

Common causes are Infections, Hormonal Imbalance, Vaginal Environments Changes and maybe it’s just Normal Discharge!

 

Menses discharge

Besides having bright red blood discharge during menses, you can also have dark brown discharge which usually occurs towards the end of your menstruation or 1-2 days after menstruation.  This is the leftover menstrual blood in the vagina which was not completely cleared. It is brown as dead blood cells turn brown. Sometimes, this dark brown discharge can also be seen during your mid cycle when ovulation occurs and is normal.

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Infections

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Bacterial vaginosis (vaginal infection caused by bacteria) is one of the most common causes of gray, foul fishy-smelling vaginal discharge. Redness of the vulva, itching and burning sensation during intercourse may accompany. Green, thick fishy-smelling discharges are commonly caused by gardnerella infections.

Gonorrheal infections are manifested by cloudy yellow discharge often accompanied by pelvic pain and frequent urination.

Trichomoniasis (a parasitic infection) gives yellowish frothy discharge with bad odor. This is usually transmitted through unprotected sex. These infections are commonly treated with over-the-counter antibiotics, most effective one being metronidazole in forms of tablets, vaginal gel/creams and suppositories.

White, cottage-cheese-like discharge often accompanied by itching is due to yeast infection known as candidiasis.

Other type of infections that you could get which could cause abnormal vaginal discharge includes chlamydia, ureaplasma and mycoplasma.

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If you are pregnant, consult a doctor before taking any medications. Pay attention to your personal hygiene. Changing your panty liners frequently, keeping your feminine area cool and dry by avoiding tight clothing and linen panties may help prevent from such infections.

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Lifestyle

We must not overlook some other simple facts that may lead to changes in normal conditions of vagina. Decreased bacterial count and an increased vaginal pH more than 4.5 are the main culprits causing infection. You may not notice that using fragrant soaps, vaginal douching and frequent bubbly baths may be some of the causes. For those who are sexually active, sticking to one partner is the best prevention, as STDs are often associated with such infections. Pregnancy and menopause may sometimes lead to imbalanced vaginal conditions due to hormonal changes. It is then best to maintain a good personal hygiene.

Although less frequently red discharge or spotting is a more serious case. When this is noted, question yourself: Have you had any unprotected intercourse recently? If yes, this may be a sign of pregnancy and you might want to do a pregnancy test. Spotting during early pregnancy may mean miscarriages or threatened abortion. Some other reasons are vaginal tear and lacerations during rough intercourse, and, if you are more than 40, it may be due to cancers. This is the time when you should be worried and tell your doctor.

 

 

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2,027 Comments

  1. Hello, my partner and I went on a 3 day sexual binge.
    We had sex 3- 4 times a day for 3 days. But the very last time we had very rough sex and my cervix was hit more than once very hard. That night he fingered me a little rough as well and the next morning I woke up with clear discharge streaked with blood. Then that evening I had a huge gush of darkblood that was mucousy and have now been bleeding regularlly for 24 hours. I am having to use tampons, the blood is bright red and has some clots. My period started February 22 and ended the 28th. We had sex March 8, March 9, March 10. I started bleeding on March 11th and I am still bleeding. I’ve been tested for STDs about a month ago and I was clean. Is it residual period stuff? Did he tear something?

  2. Ms Worried

    Hi, I am 44 years old and about two years ago, I had a D & C done – reason given there was a pollip in my lining which cause heavy bleeding. After this, I’ve been experiencing some degree Of incontinance especially when I wake up early in the morning. I feel wet and must go to the bathroom at once. However, it does not smell like urine. I have not had sex for more that 4-5 months. Now I’m experiencing mucus discharge with blood. I’m really worried and wonder if it could be cancerous. Please advise !!!

  3. Dear Dr,

    I have been diagnosed with endometriosis last year and I had a laparotomy to remove the cysts found on both my ovaries, one was a dermoid cyst while the other was endometriosis. After the surgery I was prescribed with Visanne to reduce the recurrence of endo and I have taken the medication for 6 months. I have recently ended the treatment and since then have been a lot of white discharge but without odor. I didn’t have any issues while taking Visanne but now I am worried about the amount of discharge that I am having after this treatment.
    Should I see a doctor for this situation?

    I also wish to know when would be ideal for me to perform another ultrasound scan to see if the endo is back? My Visanne treatment ended 2 weeks ago. I am not able to refer back to my gynae who treated me as I am currently living in another place so I will have to also look for a new doctor.

    Your response will be much appreciated.

    • Dear Ms Nair ,

      In view that you are having persistant discharge and that you have recently completed treatment for endometriosis 2 weeks ago, I would advise that you were to followup with either your previous gynae or another gynaecologist. You will require a an assessment and referral from your local GP in this case.

  4. Hi doc, I did a D&C on the 27th of July after an a echography said I was having a miscarriage. Three days later I did a pregnancy test which came out negative. Right now I have this slippery brownish discharge with blood patches and I feel slight pains in my tummy.

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