What Is Vaginal Discharge?

what is vaginal discharge


Vaginal discharge is fluid made by the glands inside the vagina and cervix. It flushes out dead cells and bacteria, keeping the vagina clean and minimizing the risk of infection. This process is critical for maintaining a healthy environment in the female reproductive system.

Is vaginal discharge normal?

Typically, vaginal discharge is completely normal. Depending on the time in your menstrual cycle, the amount, color, and hue of the discharge may vary. Vaginal discharge varies in color from clear to a milky white. While you are ovulating, breastfeeding, or sexually aroused, you will have more dischargei You may also notice a different smell to your discharge when you’re pregnant or haven’t been adhering to your normal hygiene routine. Carefree offers a wide variety of panty liners designed to help keep you confident and comfortable while experiencing vaginal discharge.

Normal variations throughout your menstrual cycle are to be expected. When the smell, color, or consistency is unusual, particularly when it’s accompanied by vaginal burning or itching, you may have an infection or other condition, which requires medication or other medical intervention.

Causes of abnormal vaginal discharge

Any change in the bacteria balance in the vagina may alter the discharge color, odor, or texture. The following details a few common causes of upset vaginal bacteria balance.

  • Yeast infections
  • Antibiotic or steroid use
  • Vaginitis or irritation in or around the vagina
  • Bacterial vaginosis, a bacterial infection pregnant women and women with multiple sexual partners are more susceptible to contracting
  • Vaginal atrophy or the thinning and drying out of the vaginal walls during menopause
  • Birth control pills
  • Douches, bubble baths, and scented soaps and lotions
  • Trichomoniasis or a parasitic infection, most often contracted during unprotected sex
  • Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Pelvic infection following surgery
  • Diabetes
  • Cervical cancer

Vaginal discharge color

Different vaginal discharge color point to different types of issues, which are as follows.

  • Thick, white, cheesy. Yeast infection, often accompanied by itching, painful intercourse, and swelling and pain around the vulva.
  • White, gray, or yellow with a fishy smell. Bacterial vaginosisii often accompanied by burning, itching, and redness and swelling of the vagina and vulva.
  • Frothy, yellow or greenish with a foul odor. Trichomoniasisiii which is a common STD, often accompanied by itching and pain while urinating.
  • Cloudy or yellow. Gonorrhea, a common STD, often accompanied by urinary incontinence, pelvic pain, and bleeding between periods.
  • Pink. Shedding of the uterine lining following childbirth.
  • Bloody or brown. Irregular menstrual cycles and in rare instances, endometrial or cervical cancer, often accompanied by abnormal vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain.

How is abnormal discharge treated?

The recommended discharge treatment will depend on the given condition. For example, antifungal medications are used to treat yeast infections while antibiotic pills and creams are used to treat bacterial vaginosis.

Feminine hygiene tips

Adhere to the following tips to keep your vagina clean, limiting the risk of infections and other issues that may contribute to abnormal discharge.

  • Wash your vagina daily in the shower with warm or hot water and a gentle, mild soap
  • Avoid feminine douche products, scented soaps, feminine sprays, and bubble baths
  • Always wipe from front to back while using the restroom to avoid getting bacteria into the vagina, which may cause an infection
  • Wear 100% cotton underwear
  • Limit wear of overly tight clothing

If you have a significant amount of vaginal discharge, there has been a change in your vaginal discharge, or your vaginal discharge has an unusual smell or color, make an appointment with your gynecologist or another reputable health care provider.

Note: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.

i Content distributed by Check Pregnancy. 2016, December 23.
Vaginal Discharge After Sex and What it Means [Blog Post].
Retrieved from: https://www.checkpregnancy.com/

ii Provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2017, February 8.
Bacterial Vaginosis – CDC Fact Sheet [PDF].
Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stdfact-bacterial-vaginosis.htm

iii Provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2017, January 31.
Trichomoniasis - CDC Fact Sheet [PDF].
Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/stdfact-trichomoniasis.htm


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