Vagina discharge is the fluid produced by glands in the wall of the vaginal and cervix that come out through the vagina opening. Vagina discharge is most often a normal and regular occurrence as this fluid carries dead cells and bacteria out of your body to keep your vagina clean and prevent it from getting infected.
The quality and the appearance of the fluid vaginal discharge vary throughout the menstrual cycle. This is why it is important for you to understand your cycle and know what is normal for you, as any change in the amount, odour and consistency of the vagina discharge can indicate an infection or disease condition.
What is the normal vagina discharge?
For us to recognize when something goes wrong we must know what the normal looks like. The normal vagina discharge ranges in colour from clear white to milky white and has no specific quantity, it might have a slight odour but the odour should not be pungent / fishy.
Immediately after menstruation, there is usually no discharge at all, some days after the period ends there can be a thick white discharge. Its consistency changes after some days to mucous-like and before ovulation which is usually 14days after your period, the discharge becomes clear and sticky before returning to the thick and white consistency before the next period.
Characteristics of vagina discharge in pregnancy.
During pregnancy, the vagina discharges a thin white, milky and mild smelling fluid. The quantity of vagina discharge also increases in pregnancy, this is due to the changes in the level of estrogen and other hormones.
It is important to note that a significant decrease in the quantity of vaginal discharge signifies a decrease in the level of estrogen in the body which might be a reason for you to visit your doctor.
Conditions that causes decrease in estrogen level
- Menopause and peri-menopause
- Drugs / hormones used in treatment of breast cancer, Endometriosis and fibroid
- Intense Exercise and Severe stress.
Different types of vaginal discharge and their meaning.
There are different types of vaginal discharge and they are categorized based on their color and consistency. Some vagina discharges are normal and others may indicate an underlying condition that requires treatment.
- Whitish Discharge
Thick whitish discharge at the end or beginning of the menstrual cycle can be normal.
However, if you experience itching, burning and irritation alongside the whitish discharge or you discharge a thick, cottage cheese-like fluid, it can indicate the presence of an infection, most likely a yeast infection and needs treatment, see a doctor.
- Clear discharge
Vagina Discharge can also be clear, this can occur at any time of the month and it is usually normal.
- Clear and watery
A clear and watery discharge is normal and can occur at any time of the month but may be especially heavy after exercise.
- Clear and stretchy
Vagina discharge may also be clear but stretchy and mucous-like, rather than watery. This indicates that you are likely ovulating and is a normal type of vagina discharge.
- Brown or bloody discharge
Brown or bloody discharge is usually normal and it occurs during or right after menstruation.
Spotting which occurs in between periods as a discharge of small amount of bloody fluid and a late discharge at the end of your period which may look brown instead of red may be a normal discharge.
However, if spotting happens during the normal time of your period and you’ve recently had unprotected sex it could indicate pregnancy.
Also, Spotting during an early phase of pregnancy could indicate miscarriage and should be discussed with your doctor.
Brown or bloody discharge can also be a sign of uterine or cervical cancer, fibroids and other abdominal growth in rare cases. This is why it is important to visit your doctor once you notice persisting bloody discharge.
- Yellow Discharge
If you notice a yellowish vagina discharge, it’s an abnormal discharge and usually a sign of a bacterial infection or sexually transmitted infection, it may also occur with a slight offensive odour.
- Green Discharge
Green vagina discharge is an abnormal discharge and indicates bacterial infection or a sexually transmitted infection e.g. trichomoniasis if you notice a greenish vaginal discharge kindly visit your doctor.
CAUSES OF ABNORMAL VAGINA DISCHARGE
As earlier said, normal vaginal discharge is a healthy function of the body that helps keep the vaginal clean and free form infections.
And there are times your vaginal discharge will increase physiologically i.e. not because of an infection e.g. during ovulation, emotional stress and sexual arousal.
However, there are times your vaginal discharge is due to an underlying infection, below are various infection and the characteristics of the discharge they give.
Bacteria vaginosis is a very common bacterial infection that results in increased vaginal discharge which has a strong, foul-fishy odor. Bacteria vaginosis may be asymptomatic in some people. It is not sexually transmitted but occurs more often in sexually transmitted women.
Trichomoniasis is an infection caused by a protozoa which spreads through sexual contact and sharing of bathing towels or suits.
The symptoms of trichomoniasis include a foul smelling yellowish green discharge that may present with pain or inflammation and itching. Trichomoniasis may be asymptomatic in some people.
Yeast infection is a common fungal infection that occurs in most women and produces white, cottage cheese-like discharge alongside burning and itching sensations. Normally, yeast cells are present in the vagina but it is the abnormal growth /multiplication that cause this disorder.
There are certain things that increase the likelihood of developing a yeast infection and they include:
Use of birth control pills
Antibiotic use etc.
Gonorrhea and Chlamydial
Another condition that causes abnormal discharge is Gonorrhea and Chlamydial which are sexually transmitted infections that cause a cloudy greenish yellow discharge. When they ascend through the cervix they can cause pelvic inflammatory disease.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is an infection that is sexually transmitted and often present with symptoms such as pelvic pain, pain during sex, urgency and frequent urination.
This occurs when infective bacteria from the vagina migrate to other reproductive organ in the body. It also presents with heavy offensive smelling vaginal discharge, itching and irritation.
The human papillomavirus is another sexually transmitted infection which can produce a vaginal discharge. Human papillomavirus infection can progress into cervical cancer which produces a foul smelling brown bloody and watery discharge.
It is important to know that the best thing to do when you notice any abnormal discharge is to visit your health care provider for adequate screening and proper examination.
Self-care measures for your vagina to prevent infections.
- Wear cotton pants that are free and breathable.
- Always sun dry your underwear
- Do not practice douching
- Practice safe sex always to avoid sexually transmitted infections.
- Do not wash your vagina with soap or antiseptics
- Avoid irrational use of antibiotics.
- Most importantly visit your doctor if you have any discharge that is abnormal
Olajumoke Adeyemo is a Pharmacy student of the University of Ibadan. She is a passionate copy & content writer, nature lover and a public health enthusiast. She is a Christian.
Her hobbies are reading, music, writing and traveling.