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What is Vaginal discharge?
Vaginal discharge serves an important housekeeping function in the female reproductive system. Fluid made by glands inside the vagina and cervix carries away dead cells and bacteria. This keeps the vagina clean and helps prevent infection.
Most of the time, vaginal discharge is perfectly normal. The amount can vary, as can odor and hue (its color can range from clear to a milky white-ish), depending on the time in your menstrual cycle. For example, there will be more discharge if you are ovulating, breastfeeding, or are sexually aroused. The smell may be different if you are pregnant or you haven’t been diligent about your personal hygiene.
None of those changes is cause for alarm. However, if the color, smell, or consistency seems significantly unusual, especially if it accompanied by vaginal itching or burning, you could be noticing an infection or other condition.
Types of Vaginal discharge
White: Thick, white discharge is common at the beginning and end of your cycle. Normal white discharge is not accompanied by itching. If itching is present, thick white discharge can indicate a yeast infection.
Clear and stretchy: This is “fertile” mucous and means you are ovulating.
Clear and watery: This occurs at different times of your cycle and can be particularly heavy after exercising.
Yellow or Green: May indicate an infection, especially if it is thick or clumpy like cottage cheese or has a foul odor.
Brown: May happen right after periods, and is just “cleaning out” your vagina. Old blood looks brown.
Spotting Blood/Brown Discharge: This may occur when you are ovulating/mid-cycle. Sometimes early in pregnancy you may have spotting or a brownish discharge at the time your period would normally come.
If you have spotting at the time of your normal period rather than your usual amount of flow, and you have had sex without using birth control, you should check a pregnancy test.
Abnormal Discharge and Their Possible Causes
|Type of Discharge||What It Might Mean||Other Symptoms|
|Bloody or brown||Irregular menstrual cycles, or less often, cervical or endometrial cancer||Abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain|
|Cloudy or yellow||Gonorrhea||Bleeding between periods, urinary incontinence, pelvic pain|
|Frothy, yellow or greenish with a bad smell||Trichomoniasis||Pain and itching while urinating|
|Pink||Shedding of the uterine lining after childbirth (lochia)|
|Thick, white, cheesy||Yeast infection||Swelling and pain around the vulva, itching, painful sexual intercourse|
|White, gray, or yellow with fishy odor||Bacterial vaginosis||Itching or burning, redness and swelling of the vagina or vulva|
What is the treatment for vaginal discharge?
Treatment for vaginal discharge is dependent upon the exact cause. Treatment goals include both symptom relief and eradication of the infection.
Home remedies treat vaginal discharge?
Yeast infections may be treated using over-the-counter medications, but other causes of vaginal discharge require prescription medications. It is critical to take the entire course of medication as prescribed or recommended by your doctor, even if the symptoms improve. If you are uncertain as to the cause of your vaginal discharge, it is important to visit a health-care professional to determine the cause rather than starting OTC medications if you are unsure.
Some alternative medical approaches recommend douching for the treatment of some causes of vaginal discharge. However, douching is not recommended by most physicians. The body has a natural way of cleansing the vaginal canal by itself, and douching can disturb the normal environment of the vagina, potentially leading to inflammation and even worsening of the symptoms. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and most doctors recommend that women avoid douching unless specifically prescribed by a doctor.