Vaginal discharge is a collection of fluid that comes out of a woman’s genitals. It is often a normal and regular occurrence. However, certain types of discharge can indicate an infection. Abnormal discharge may be yellow or green, with a thick consistency or a bad odor.
There are different types of vaginal discharge, some of which are normal. In addition to not causing any harm to the body of women and girls, their secretion by many glands inside the uterus and its walls is absolutely necessary. But on the other hand, there are discharges that are caused by disorders or diseases that women face.
There are different types of vaginal discharge, and the features and characteristics of this discharge will be somewhat different. In fact, the color, odor, and type of discharge, whether liquid, sticky, or infectious, causes these discharges to fall into different categories. Therefore, recognizing the types of discharge is one of the most important steps that women and girls should take to be able to identify discharge in abnormal conditions and, if necessary, begin the treatment process.
What is vaginal discharge?
Vaginal discharge is a fluid that is secreted from the small glands of the vagina and cervix. This fluid leaks out of the vagina daily to clean old cells and keep the vagina and reproductive system clean and healthy. The amount of discharge can vary from person to person. Its color, consistency, and amount can also change depending on the day the person is in the menstrual cycle.
The first to fifth days
The discharge is usually red or bloody at the beginning of the cycle because the uterine wall is shedding.
Sixth to fourteenth days
The person may see less vaginal discharge than usual. As the egg grows, the cervical mucosa becomes cloudy, white, or yellow and may become sticky.
Fourteenth to twenty-fifth days
A few days before ovulation, the mucus will be thin and slippery, resembling egg whites’ consistency. After ovulation, the mucosa becomes cloudy, white, or yellow again.
Twenty-fifth to twenty-eighth days
The cervical mucosa lightens, and the person sees less before re-menstruation.
Causes of changes in vaginal discharge
Natural vaginal discharge is a normal function of the body. These secretions are created to clean and protect the vagina. For example, increased discharge with sexual arousal and ovulation is normal. Exercise, birth control pills, and emotional stress can also cause changes in discharge, but the infection usually causes the abnormal discharge.
Bacterial vaginosis is a very common bacterial infection that causes an increase in discharge. It smells strong and sometimes smells like fish, although it does not cause any symptoms in some cases. Women who have oral sex or have multiple sexual partners have an increased risk of contracting the infection.
Trichomoniasis is another type of infection caused by a protozoan or unicellular organism. The infection is usually spread through sexual contact and spread by sharing towels or bathing suits, causing a yellow or green discharge that smells bad. Pain, inflammation, and itching are common symptoms, although some people do not experience any symptoms.
In addition to burning and itching, yeast infection is a fungal infection that produces a white, cheese-like discharge. The presence of yeast in the vagina is normal, but its growth can multiply in uncontrolled conditions. The following may increase the risk of yeast infections:
- Use of birth control pills
Gonorrhea and chlamydia
Gonorrhea and chlamydia are sexually transmitted infections that can cause abnormal discharge that is often yellow, greenish, or cloudy.
Pelvic inflammatory disease
PID is an infection that often spreads through sexual contact. It occurs when bacteria spread to the vagina and other reproductive organs. May cause heavy discharge and odor.
Human papillomavirus or cervical cancer
Human papillomavirus is spread through sexual contact, which can lead to cervical cancer. Although there may be no symptoms, this type of cancer can cause bloody, brown, or watery discharge with an unpleasant odor. Cervical cancer can be easily diagnosed with an annual Pap smear and HPV test.
When the body prepares to release an egg from the ovary, the amount of secretion increases in the middle of the menstrual cycle around the fourteenth day. As ovulation approaches, the discharge may become moist, clear, and stretchier than before. Once the egg is released, the discharge may decrease and become cloudy or thick. Other ovulation symptoms include increased basal body temperature, unilateral abdominal pain, and spotting.
During sexual arousal, the blood vessels of the genital tract dilate. As a result, the vagina releases fluids by lubrication, moistening the walls, and increasing secretions. Other symptoms of sexual arousal include swelling of the urethra, increased breathing rate, and flushing.
Stress with hormonal imbalance
Hormonal imbalances due to stress or other health conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, may increase vaginal discharge. PCOS affects about 10% of women of childbearing age. While some women experience less vaginal discharge, others have increased discharge.
Like other body parts, an allergic reaction can occur in or around the vagina. Some of the common causes of these reactions include:
- Sex toys
- Toilet paper
Antibiotics can help with some diseases, but they can also cause an imbalance in vaginal bacteria.
Intrauterine device (IUD)
An IUD is a contraceptive device that is inserted into the uterus. Although the IUD effectively prevents pregnancy in the long term, it is still a foreign body and may irritate sensitive tissue. Some people report coffee discharge watery to bad odor with the IUD. Although a range of discharge can be normal, some changes may indicate infection. If a woman has the following symptoms, she should see a doctor:
- Yellow, green, or gray discharge
- Persistent foul odor
- Swelling around the vaginal opening or vulva
- Pain or tenderness around the vaginal opening or vulva
Hormonal birth control
Hormonal birth control can have important benefits, such as protecting against pregnancy and treating heavy periods, acne, and cysts. However, women may experience certain side effects along the way that are not very pleasant. One of these side effects is increased vaginal discharge while regulating hormones.
Early signs of pregnancy
Almost all pregnant women experience an increase in vaginal discharge, which helps protect the fetus from infections that may pass through the vagina and uterus.
Lochia is a type of vaginal discharge that women may experience in the weeks after giving birth. The volume of this discharge may increase during breastfeeding. It usually starts with dark red bleeding and then changes to a watery or brownish-yellow color before fading.
Types of vaginal discharge
There are different types of vaginal discharge based on consistency and color. Changes in the color, amount, or odor of vaginal discharge may indicate a problem. Sometimes, it is difficult to diagnose based on vaginal discharge alone. Other symptoms, such as burning or itching, should also be checked.
The red color of the blood during menstruation varies between light and dark. Red discharge is usually the result of bleeding during a menstrual period. On average, menstrual bleeding occurs every 28 days, although the normal range is between 21 and 35 days.
Anyone who bleeds between periods should see a doctor. Although many benign causes can cause intermenstrual bleeding, they can sometimes signify a serious illness. Anyone who has menopause and has not had a period for at least one year should see a doctor if they experience vaginal bleeding. It can sometimes be a sign of endometrial cancer.
White shades can include cream or light yellow. The white discharge is most likely a sign of healthy lubrication if the person has no other symptoms. If a white discharge, such as cream cheese, is firm or has a strong odor, it can indicate an infection. White, thick, pungent discharge is usually associated with a yeast infection, which can cause itching or irritation.
If there is very little yellow discharge, it may not be a problem. It is possible to change color to yellow when it coincides with a change in diet or supplements. Dark yellow, yellowish-green, or green discharge is usually a sign of a bacterial or sexually transmitted infection.
Pink discharge usually occurs with premenstrual spotting. However, it can also signify implantation bleeding in early pregnancy. Some people experience slight spotting after ovulation, which can also cause a pink discharge. The discharge can be pink if sex causes small tears or irritation in the vagina or cervix.
Gray vaginal discharge is not healthy and can sign a common bacterial infection called bacterial vaginosis (BV). Bacterial vaginosis usually causes other vaginal symptoms, including:
- Strong odor
- Redness around the vulva or vaginal opening
It is normal to have a little more discharge at the end of the cycle, and if hormonal contraception is used or the person is sexually active, it can make it heavier. But there are several other reasons for the excess moisture, such as infection, missing tampons, or a reaction to a new soap.
Clear and watery
Clear and watery discharge is perfectly normal. It can occur at any time of the month. It may increase after exercise, especially strenuous exercise.
When to see the doctor
If the vaginal discharge smells or looks unusual, be sure to see a gynecologist. Signs that women should see a doctor include:
- Pain or discomfort
- Grey, green, or yellow discharge
- Strong odor
- Discharge that is frothy or like cottage cheese
- Bleeding between periods or after menopause
- Spotting after sex regularly
- Burning sensation during urination
There is no need to prevent normal vaginal discharge. However, the following precautions can sometimes prevent abnormal discharge:
- Avoid douching vaginas, which can kill the good bacteria that help prevent vaginal infections.
- Wear cotton underwear; it absorbs moisture and may prevent yeast infections.
- Have safe sex with a condom, limit the number of sexual partners, and get regular STI tests.
- Use soaps, tampons, and odorless pads. Aromatic or strong products may disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina, increasing the risk of infection.
- Always wipe from front to back after using the toilet. This may prevent bacteria from entering the vagina from the rectum.
- Avoid wearing tight pants, pantyhose, swimwear, and cycling shorts for a long time.
- Take a bath or shower daily and dry your genital area.
Treating a BV or STI, such as Trichomonas, Chlamydia, or Gonorrhea, is usually very simple and may involve putting an antibiotic gel or cream in the vagina for several days or taking just one dose of antibiotic by injection or mouth.
Infections that have become untreated and become more complicated may require further intervention. Note that many STIs do not cause symptoms or are asymptomatic for a long time. This does not mean they do not need to be treated as soon as possible. If you are sexually active, regular STI testing is very important.
The bottom line
Vaginal discharge is described as fluid released by glands in the vagina and cervix; This fluid carries dead cells and bacteria out of the body and helps with vaginal discharge to keep the vagina clean and prevent infection. Natural vaginal discharge varies in amount and color, ranging from light to milky and white. The discharge may also have a mild odor, although a bad odor is a sign of infection.
There are times when the amount of secretion can change. Immediately after menstruation, there is almost no discharge; two to three days after menstruation, there is a thick, white discharge. Before ovulation, the discharge is clear and sticky, and before the next period, the discharge is thick and white. If there is an unusual discharge in terms of color and odor, especially when accompanied by other symptoms such as burning and itching, be sure to see a gynecologist.
Dr. Arjang Naim MD can help clients in this field, and if there is a disease in, he can suggest the appropriate treatment method with a timely diagnosis.
- What are the three layers of the uterine walls?
2. What are the different types of cervical mucus?
Cervical mucus will not be the same for all people, but during the menstrual cycle, it usually looks like the following:
- Dry or no cervical fluid
- Sticky like paste
- Creamy like yogurt
- Slippery, stretchy
- Wet, watery, and clear in color
3. What is Lochia?
Lochia, also known as postpartum bleeding, is a normal discharge of blood and mucus from the uterus after childbirth.
4. What are the five warning signs of cervical cancer?
- Unexplained fatigue
- Frequent or urgent urination
- Abdominal bloating
- Itching or burning sensations in the vagina
- Low back or abdominal pain
5. What does menopause discharge look like?
Women who are going through menopause usually have less vaginal discharge due to low estrogen levels. It is normal for premenopausal women to have about half to a teaspoon of white or clear, thick, mucus-like, mostly odorless daily discharge.