Chances are you already know what vaginal discharge looks like—who hasn’t seen a watery white stain in their underwear and freaked out? Don’t worry, a lot of times this discharge is completely harmless! Read on for an essential lowdown on this body fluid. You can expect to learn and identify the various kinds of discharge and their meanings.
So, what is vaginal discharge in the first place?
Vaginal discharge is the non-menstrual fluid released from your vagina. It becomes a regular happening once you hit puberty, and continues till menopause. While the discharge might seem like an annoyance, it serves a huge role. It keeps your vagina lubricated, healthy and removes dead cells and bacteria. Understanding it better can help you track your menstrual cycle and watch out for signs of a disease.
What are signs of a healthy vaginal discharge?
Normal vaginal discharge or ‘leukorrhea’ usually has these features:
- Clear or watery
- Odourless or with a faint smell
- Does not itch or burn.
While the normal amount of discharge is different for every woman, one teaspoon of discharge daily is considered an average. Moreover, your discharge will vary in colour, texture and volume through the course of your menstrual cycle.
Changes in vaginal discharge
During ovulation (when your ovary releases an egg) the discharge turns egg white, thick and stretchy. In this fertile period, there’s also an increase in the volume of discharge. Other reasons for heavy discharge are:
- Hormonal imbalance
- Prolonged use of antibiotics
- PCOS medication
- Sexual arousal
We recommend using panty liners to avoid pesky underwear stains during times of heavy discharge.
When is it a cause for concern?
If you notice vaginal burning, itching or pain along with a change in the colour, texture and smell of your discharge, it is time to visit a gynaecologist. Abnormal signs to look out for in your discharge:
- A change in colour to whitish grey, yellow or green
- Texture resembling cottage cheese, foamy or frothy
- Foul or fishy odour
An abnormal discharge means that you could have one of these infections:
This bacterial infection may sometimes produce no symptoms at all but usually leads to itching, burning or genital pain and vaginal discharge with signs like:
- Greyish white
- Fishy odour
This is a fungal infection which may be caused by diabetes, pregnancy, prolonged use of antibiotics, uncomfortable underwear or even stress. Signs of a yeast infection in your discharge are:
- White in colour
- Clumpy and consistency resembling cottage cheese
This is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) which may be accompanied by painful urination, itching or burning and vaginal discharge that is:
- Yellow or green in colour
- Foul smell
Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia
Gonorrhoea and chlamydia are sexually transmitted infections (STIs) caused by bacteria. Signs of these STI in your vaginal discharge include a change in colour to yellow, green, or whitish grey.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Cervical Cancer
The human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a viral and very common STI. While it often shows no symptoms, it can cause genital warts or lead to cervical cancer. Signs of cervical cancer in vaginal discharge are:
- Bloody or brown in colour
- Watery with a foul smell
All sexually active women over the age of 21 should ideally get yearly Pap smears to test for these conditions. For more information on how to treat abnormal vaginal discharge, book an online consultation with our expert gynaecologists at Veera.
Disclaimer: Content on Veera is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice, or as a substitute for medical advice given by a physician