Vaginal discharge is fluid secreted from tiny glands in the vagina and cervix. This fluid leaks from the vagina each day to remove old cells and debris, keeping the vagina and reproductive tract clean and healthy. (1a)
Most of the time, vaginal discharge is perfectly normal. The amount can vary, as can odor and color (which can range from clear to a milky whiteish), depending on the time in your menstrual cycle. For example, there will be more discharge when you’re ovulating, breastfeeding, or sexually aroused. It may smell different when you’re pregnant or you’ve been letting your personal hygiene slide. (2a)
Typical vaginal discharge does not have an offensive smell and does not cause any irritation. It’s quite likely that you won’t even know you have any discharge until you see some in your underwear. It is usually clear or creamy in colour. Sometimes there may be a slight yellow tint to it. (31)
Your menstrual cycle has a significant effect on the type of vaginal discharge you experience throughout the month. About halfway between your periods, you will see a normal increase in clear vaginal discharge. This increased wetness and clear vaginal discharge signal ovulation. That is the time of the month when you are fertile and can get pregnant. (4a)
It’s important to recognise the signs of abnormal vaginal discharge because it could be a sign of infection or other health condition. If you experience a vaginal discharge that suddenly and randomly increases, this may be a sign of a problem. Another change that may indicate a problem is a discharge that is bright yellow or greenish in color. A thick clumped or chunky discharge or a very watery discharge can also indicate that something is amiss in your vagina. (4a)
Types of abnormal discharge and their possible causes (1b)
The difference between bacterial vaginosis (BV) and thrush
It’s common for women to be confused between BV and thrush. (5a)
Both yeast infections and BV are vaginal infections and are common causes of vaginal discharge, but the two conditions are not the same. (5b)
A change in your vaginal pH may trigger BV. A change in pH can cause the bacteria that naturally grow inside your vagina to become more dominant than it should. The most common bacteria that causes an overgrowth is Gardnerella vaginalis. (6a)
Some symptoms of BV includes: (6b)
- A “fishy” odor that gets stronger after sex or during menstruation
- Thin gray, yellow, or greenish vaginal discharge
- Vaginal itching
- Burning during urination
Yeast Infection (6c)
Yeast infections can develop if there’s an overgrowth of the Candida fungus in the vagina.
Some symptoms of thrush includes: (6d)
- Thick, white, “cottage cheese-like” vaginal discharge
- Redness and swelling around the vaginal opening
- Pain, soreness, and itching of the vulva
- Burning during urination
- Burning during sex
While not all vaginal problems can be prevented, regular checkups can help ensure that problems affecting your vagina are diagnosed as soon as possible. Don’t let embarrassment prevent you from talking to your doctor about any concerns you might have about your vaginal health. (7a)
Go to www.myvaginalgel.co.za for more information.
DISCLAIMER: This editorial has been commissioned and brought to you by iNova Pharmaceuticals. Content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.
- Medical News Today. A color-coded guide to vaginal discharge. [online]June 2018 [cited May 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322232.php
- WebMD. Vaginal Discharge: What’s Abnormal? [online]February 2018 [cited May 2019]; Available from URL:https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/vaginal-discharge-whats-abnormal?print=true
- Healthdirect. Vaginal discharge. [online]October 2017 [cited May 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/vaginal-discharge-whats-abnormal?print=true
- Verywellhealth. The Difference Between Normal and Abnormal Vaginal Discharge. [online]March 2019 [cited May 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.verywellhealth.com/lets-talk-about-vaginal-discharge-3522663
- Mayo Clinic. Women’s health. Vagina: What’s normal, what’s not. [online]March 2018 [cited 10 May 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/vagina/art-20046562
- Healthy women. [online][cited 14 May 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.healthywomen.org/content/ask-expert/12966/difference-between-yeast-infection-and-bacterial-vaginosis
- Healthline. Bacterial Vaginosis vs. Yeast Infection: Which Is It? [online]March 2019 [cited 14 May 2019]; Available from URL:https://www.healthline.com/health/bacterial-vaginosis-vs-yeast-infection
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