Vaginal discharge is most often a normal and regular occurrence. However,
there are certain types of discharge that can indicate an infection. Abnormal
discharge may be yellow or green, chunky in consistency, or have a foul odor.
Yeast or a bacterial infection usually causes abnormal discharge. If you
notice any discharge that looks unusual or smells foul, see your doctor for
diagnosis and treatment.
Types of vaginal
There are several different types of vaginal discharge. These types are
categorized based on their color
and consistency. Some types of discharge are normal. Others may indicate an
underlying condition that requires treatment.
A bit of white discharge, especially at the beginning or end of your
menstrual cycle, is normal. However, if the discharge is accompanied by itching and has a
thick, cottage cheese-like consistency or appearance, it’s not normal and needs
treatment. This type of discharge may be a sign of a yeast infection.
Clear and watery
A clear and watery discharge is perfectly normal. It can occur at any time
of the month. It may be especially heavy after exercise.
Clear and stretchy
When discharge is clear but stretchy and mucous-like, rather than watery, it
indicates that you are likely ovulating.
This is a normal type of discharge.
Brown or bloody
Brown or bloody discharge is usually normal, especially when it occurs
during or right after your menstrual
cycle. A late discharge at the end of your period can look brown instead of
red. You may also experience a small amount of bloody
discharge between periods. This is called spotting.
If spotting occurs during the normal time of your period and you’ve recently
had sex without protection, this could be a sign
of pregnancy. Spotting during an early phase of pregnancy can be a sign of miscarriage, so it
should be discussed with your OB-GYN.
In rare cases, brown or bloody discharge can be a sign of advanced cervical cancer.
This is why it’s important to get a yearly pelvic exam and Pap smear. Your
gynecologist will check for cervical abnormalities during these procedures.
Yellow or green
A yellow or green discharge, especially when it’s thick, chunky, or
accompanied by an unpleasant
smell, isn’t normal. This type of discharge may be a sign of the infection trichomoniasis.
It’s commonly spread through sexual
Causes of vaginal
Normal vaginal discharge is a healthy bodily function. It’s your body’s way
of cleaning and protecting the vagina. For
instance, it’s normal for discharge to increase with sexual arousal and
ovulation. Exercise, use of birth
control pills, and emotional stress
may also result in discharge.
Abnormal vaginal discharge, however, is usually caused by an infection.
vaginosis is a quite common bacterial infection. It causes increased
vaginal discharge that has a strong, foul, and sometimes fishy odor, although
it produces no symptoms in some cases. Women who receive oral sex or who have
multiple sexual partners have an increased risk of acquiring this infection.
Trichomoniasis is another type of infection. It’s caused by a protozoan, or
single-celled organism. The infection is usually spread by sexual , but
it can also be contracted by sharing towels or bathing suits. It results in a
yellow or green discharge that has a foul odor. Pain, inflammation,
and itching are also common symptoms, although some people don’t experience any
A yeast infection is a fungal infection that produces white, cottage
cheese-like discharge in addition to burning
and itching sensations. The presence of yeast in the vagina is normal, but its
growth can multiply out of control in certain situations. The following may
increase your likelihood of yeast infections:
of birth control pills
especially prolonged use over 10 days
Gonorrhea and chlamydia
Gonorrhea and chlamydia are sexually
transmitted infections (STIs) that can produce an abnormal discharge. It’s
often yellow, greenish, or cloudy in color.
inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection that’s often spread by sexual
. It occurs when bacteria spread up the vagina and into other
reproductive organs. It may produce a heavy, foul-smelling discharge.
(HPV) or cervical cancer
papillomavirus (HPV) infection is spread by sexual . It can lead to cervical
cancer. While there may be no symptoms, this type of cancer can produce a
bloody, brown, or watery discharge with an unpleasant odor. Cervical cancer can
easily be prevented or found with yearly Pap smears and .
When to seek
If you have unusual discharge alongside certain other symptoms, see your
doctor as soon as possible. The symptoms to watch out for include:
If you have any concerns regarding whether a discharge is normal, make an
appointment to see your doctor.
What to expect at a
When you see your doctor for abnormal vaginal discharge, you’ll get a physical exam,
including a pelvic exam. Your doctor will also ask you several questions about
your symptoms, your menstrual cycle, and your sexual activity. In many cases,
an infection can be detected by the physical or pelvic exam.
If your doctor can’t diagnose the problem immediately, they may order some
tests. Your doctor may want to take a scraping from your cervix to check for
HPV or cervical cancer. Your discharge may also be examined under a microscope
to pinpoint an infectious agent. Once your doctor can tell you the cause of the
discharge, you’ll be given treatment options.
Home care for
infections, practice good hygiene and wear breathable . Don’t use douches, as they can make discharge worse by removing useful bacteria.
Also practice safe sex and use protection to avoid STIs.
To decrease the
likelihood of yeast infections when taking antibiotics, eat yogurt that contains live and active cultures. If you know you have a
yeast infection, you can also treat it with an over-the-counter .
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